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First Drive: Fiat 500 Abarth

Why did we have to wait so long?

by on Mar.05, 2012

The Fiat 500 Abarth delivers subtle visual tweaks -- and a 60% boost in power.

You can’t sell a young man an old man’s car, goes the old automotive marketing adage.  And, the conventional wisdom goes, it’s tough to sell a guy a “secretary’s car.” Now, we’ve got nothing against secretaries, but the term usually applies to products that are more show than go.  And, arguably, that applied to the Fiat 500 hatchback that rolled into U.S. showrooms a year ago.

The Italian automaker is quick to note that it’s already sold over 500,000 of the 3-door microcars outside the U.S., but demand in the States has been sorely lagging behind expectations, and the anemic little 101-horsepower engine is likely one reason why.  But perhaps things are about to change.

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With the help of supermodel Catrinel Menghia and “bad boy” actor Charlie Sheen, Fiat is staging a high-amp launch for the new Fiat 500 Abarth.  With its taut suspension, 160-horsepower engine – and subtle styling tweaks that give it a bit of its own bad-boy look, the Abarth is the machina the Italian automaker should have brought State-side from the start.


First Look: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

Performance model aiming to pump some life into Italian brand.

by on Oct.31, 2011

Fiat is betting the Abarth edition will pump a little more lift into the slow-selling 500.

Despite some ambitious sales goals the little Fiat 500 hasn’t exactly set the U.S. market on fire.  So the Italian partner of Detroit’s Chrysler LLC will be turning up the energy level with the upcoming launch of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

Due to make its debut next month at the L.A. Auto Show, the sportiest version yet of the Cinquecento will feature an all-new 1.4-liter Multi-Air engine bumping the horsepower count to 130 – with an optional performance pack that can deliver yet another 30 ponies.

Whether Americans will recognize the Abarth name remains to be seen, of course, but those who do will know that it has a history of living up to the “small but wicked” tagline used for its cars over the years.

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Born in 1908, Karl Abarth was originally known as an aggressive motorcycle racer before a near-fatal accident ended his career on the track – shifting his focus to the production of exhaust systems and other performance parts.  In the ‘40s and ‘50s, “Abarth and C” had a successful career campaigning a variety of Fiat products, including a heavily modified version of the original Fiat 500 microcar.