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2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

By G.R. Whale

On Sale: First quarter 2012
Expected Pricing: $22,500-$25,000




The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth goes on sale spring of 2012. The hot-hatch "cinquecento" aims to be like the Mini Cooper S and the Volkswagen Beetle turbo. The performance iteration of the charming Fiat 500 won't say Fiat anywhere on it. All those badges will be replaced by Abarth's black scorpion over a yellow and red background, with Italian-flag striping.

With one turbocharger and two intercoolers, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth squeezes 160 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque from its 1.4-liter engine without revving past 6000 rpm. That may seem so-so in these days of 300-hp family sedans yet gives Abarth a power-to-weight ratio similar to the Mazda MX-5 Miata and heavier Mini S, and the Abarth should still handily better 30 mpg.

Every link between the engine and front wheels is strengthened to cope with the extra power, and an active differential system Fiat calls torque transfer control ensures little power is wasted spinning tires.

To match cornering and braking ability to new power, the Abarth gets a slew of changes, including a rear antiroll bar, quicker steering, Koni frequency selective shocks, three-mode (including fully off) electronic stability control, bigger Brembo brakes, unique front struts with plenty of negative camber, 16x6.5-inch cast aluminum wheels that may be optioned to 17x7-inch forged aluminum with Pirelli P Zero tires, and suspension stiffer by 40 percent in front, 20 percent in back, and 15 mm closer to the ground. That kind of talk puts the Cooper S on notice and, on a winding narrow road, many larger, faster cars, too.

Subtle an Abarth is not. The broad front spoiler has intakes for the intercoolers at each side and exit vents just ahead of the front wheels; the 500 still wears a moustache, only thicker. Side skirts, wider rear bumper area and a substantially larger spoiler atop the hatch all manage airflow better. To be certain you don't miss it, there may be sinister-dark wheels, red brake calipers, and wallpaper galore.

Interiors get sporty-requisite red-stitching for the integral-headrest sport seats, shifter, and flat-bottom three-spoke steering wheel. A turbocharger boost gauge on the left side of the instrument binnacle has an upshift light, not to save fuel but to save the engine by reminding you to shift approaching redline.

The 500 Abarth comes with a Bose sound system, Blue & Me hands-free communication, seven airbags, and features similar to those found on 500 Sport models. Options include leather upholstery (with red threads of course), moonroof, TomTom removable navigation, automatic climate control and 17-inch wheels. Fiat USA isn't talking about Abarth convertibles yet, but keep your fingers crossed.


www.fiatusa.com



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