Preview: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth reviews car previews fiat
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Click image to enlarge

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Fiat Canada

By Greg Wilson

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2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

We recently reported that the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth will go on sale in Canada in the Spring at a starting price of just $23,995. That’s welcome news for driving enthusiasts looking for an affordable small performance car. The only other sporty subcompact on the market that could compare to the Abarth (feature for feature) is the Mini Cooper S, but it’s priced just under $29,000. Will the Fiat 500 Abarth herald the return of more affordable performance subcompacts? We hope so. Cars like the Chevrolet Sonic, Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, and Toyota Yaris are prime candidates for a performance boost. These pocket rockets would offer driving fun and reasonable fuel economy along with the peace of mind of a new car warranty.

Preview: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth reviews car previews fiat
Preview: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth reviews car previews fiat
Preview: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth reviews car previews fiat
Preview: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth reviews car previews fiat
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Click image to enlarge

For now, the Fiat 500 Abarth has the under $25,000 subcompact performance car market to itself. Powered by a turbocharged version of the Fiat 500’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine now making 160 horsepower and an impressive 170 lb.-ft. of torque starting at just 2,500 rpm, the 500 Abarth has an excellent power to weight ratio. Add in its heavy-duty five-speed manual transmission, Abarth-tuned sport suspension, 16-inch tires and alloys, beefier brakes, dual exhausts, and a sporty interior with performance seats and turbo boost gauge, and you have all the ingredients for the “small but wicked” philosophy used to describe Karl Abarth’s modified Fiats in the 1960s.

A few simple bodywork additions to the basic Fiat 500 Sport model have changed the standard 500’s styling from “cute” to “brute”, starting with the Abarth’s protruding lower air dam and grille with side vents and integral fog lights, similar in design to those used on vintage Fiat 850 TC and 1000 TC models. Other Abarth additions are side sills, a sporty rear bumper with diffuser and twin tailpipes, roof spoiler, and low profile 16-inch tires with distinctive alloys (optional 17-inch lightweight forged-aluminum wheels) and red brake callipers. Fiat 500 Abarths are available in Rosso, Nero and Bianco (red, black, and white) colours with sporty side stripes that match the mirrors. Classy Abarth badges with the traditional scorpion logo decorate the rear quarter panels.

Inside is the familiar retro inspired instrument panel, but finished in a menacing black. Unique Abarth interior features include a concentric instrument cluster with 250 km/h speedometer, tachometer and trip computer, turbo boost gauge and LED shift light, and leather-wrapped flat-bottom Abarth steering wheel with integrals controls for Bluetooth, cruise and audio. As well, the hood over the speedometer is clad in black leather with red stitching as is the leather shift knob. The sporty-looking pedals are aluminum and rubber. Unique Abarth-styled one-piece front performance seats feature large side bolsters, stitching around the perimeter, and integrated side airbags. Even the rear seat’s upper portions are raised and bolstered for added back support. Upholstery choices are black cloth or black leather, or combination Red/Black leather.

Delivering the power to the front wheels is a 160-hp 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with two intercoolers and Fiat’s unique “MultiAir” valve timing system which adjusts valve timing to improve performance and efficiency. The engine’s single turbocharger operates off the engine exhaust to drive a compressor which draws cool air and pumps it into the intake manifold, creating more power. Two intercoolers remove heat in the air while compressing incoming air for higher air density which creates more power.




About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).