Monday, February 6, 2012

Fiat 500 Abarth pricing announced for U.S. market

Fiat announced the price for its much anticipated 500 Abarth.  The starting price of the vehicle is said to be $22,000 for the car excluding the destination fee.  If the fee stays the same amount as the basic 500's fee, it will be an additional $500 to the price. 

The Fiat 500 Abarth has 1.4 liter turbocharged engine.

To readers who are not familiar with the 500 Abarth, it will be the performance oriented vehicle of the Fiat 500 lineup.  The 500 Abarth has a 1.4 liter engine producing 160 hp with the help of a turbocharger.  The turbo gives the small engine a very uncharacteristic 170 lb-ft. of torque, enough to be on par with cars sporting 2 liter engines.  All the power is routed through a 5 speed manual transmission (no automatic option), and 16 inch alloy wheels come standard on the Abarth.  The suspension is stiffer than the naturally aspirated 500, and the brakes are upgraded too.  The front brakes are 11.1" vented rotors, and the rears are 9.4" solid rotors.  Both front and rear brakes are squeezed by single piston calipers. 

The car isn't all about power and cornering prowess as hands free communication and a Bose audio system are included as standard features.  The interior has sporty bucket seats, and a D-shaped steering wheel to improve leg room clearance.  The Abarth Scorpion logo adorns several parts of the car too.
Interior is different from the naturally aspirated versions of the 500.

The Fiat 500 Abarth has a standard shift light feature integrated into the boost gauge.

The 500 Abarth undercuts what many to perceive to be its chief rivals, the Mini Cooper S by approximately $1,000, however the Mini is more powerful than the 500 and has a 6 speed manual gearbox.  In Fiat's defense, they only had 14 months to design the car, and the additional stiffening of the chassis prevented a larger 6 speed transmission from fitting the vehicle.  The car has an even gear ratio spread and the 3.353 final drive ratio means the 500 Abarth will only be running at about 2800 rpm at 65 mph, which means the motor won't be so high strung during freeway driving.  The Fiat's listed curb weight is less than the Mini by a little over 100 pounds.  However the rear twist beam axle might not be as effective as the Mini's multi-link rear suspension during cornering.  The Fiat does have more cargo capacity than the Cooper S with an EPA rating of 9.5 cubic feet of space with the seats up, and 26.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. 

In some ways the 500 Abarth's specs remind us of the original hot hatchbacks from the 1980s and early 90s; tiny, fairly lightweight and with enough power to have fun.  Perhaps the Fiat is best thought of as a new version of Toyota's Starlet GT Turbo, a car which was light weight and had a 1.3 liter 135 hp turbocharged engine.  However, tiny cars have not caught on with the American public as much as in other countries around the globe.  Look at the sales of the Smart Fortwo, a car that has had its sales decreasing since its debut year. 

The price is also what may ultimately keep the car from becoming a huge hit.  It is only a few thousand less than several other compact cars that have much more power and versatility such as the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda Mazdaspeed 3, and Honda Civic Si.  However, the Mini Cooper S has proven that there is a demand for a car prioritizing driving fun as its emphasis over everyday practicality. 

We do hope the Fiat 500 Abarth catches on with the public, as the market could always use another driver oriented vehicle.  Hopefully size will not be the determinant to decide whether this car becomes a hit or not.  Regardless, we would love to review the car and wait with our fingers crossed that the 500 Abarth will come out of the sales gates strong. 
MSRP is $22,000.
Sporty D-shaped steering wheel adds some race inspired flair to the interior.

Note: Photos courtesy of Fiat.

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