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First Drive: 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth

No room, no worries when driving this pleasing pocket rocket.

by on Dec.24, 2014

The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth is big fun in a little package, in large measure due to its 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo.

No vehicle is perfect and the Fiat 500 Abarth has its share of shortcomings.

For starters, it can only carry two passengers. You can add to the list that it barely has enough room for the groceries of someone living alone and it’s dwarfed by most of the vehicles on the road, which can be unnerving at times.

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And it’s a blast to drive! (more…)

New 500L Part of a Trio of New Fiat Models Debuting in LA

Abarth Convertible and battery-based Fiat 500e also make debuts.

by on Nov.28, 2012

Fiat's near 5-seater, the 500L has about 40% more interior space than the original 500 Coupe.

Fiat officials like to point out that it took years for their closest competitor, Mini, to expand its vehicle line-up and firmly establish itself in the American market.  After a painfully slow start, the Italian maker is kicking its product program into high gear and hopes sales will quickly keep pace.

This week’s LA Auto Show will, in fact, see the debut of four new Fiat models and model variants large and small.  Well, make that small, and not quite so small, as the maker plans to stick with the mini- and microcar segments.

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“We’re launching some significant things in California,” promises Fiat’s U.S. brand boss Tim Kuniskis, vehicles which could be especially important in the Sunshine State market – currently Fiat’s largest, representing nearly one of every eight products it sells in the U.S.

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First Look: Fiat 500X

Maker set to add CUV as third model.

by on Jul.06, 2012

Fiat has offered a first look at what is expected to be the third model line in its growing U.S. line-up, a small crossover it is calling the 500X.

The unveiling came as a surprise to journalists who had been invited to Turin, Italy for the formal launch of the Fiat 500L, a 5-door hatchback that the maker plans to bring to the U.S. in 2013.  Fiat officials had previously hinted that another product was coming but refused to reveal details until lifting the covers in Turin on a silver concept vehicle.

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Tim Kuniskis, who took over as Fiat’s second U.S. brand boss last year, following a disastrously slow debut of the Italian brand, has told TheDetroitBureau.com on several occasions that there would be more products coming – but he has also emphasized that Fiat will remain focused on small vehicles in the B-car segment.

Beyond that, Fiat officials had little to say about the 500X prototype they revealed in Turin.  But it is expected to be powered by several versions of the Italian makers MultiAir engine family – starting with a 0.9-liter turbocharged version for the European market that makes 104 hp, and a 84 hp 1.3-liter turbodiesel.  An American version of the crossover would likely share the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir gas engine producing 101 hp, as well as the 160-hp version now offered in the Fiat 500 Abarth edition.

Reports from Europe suggest the 500X will measure about 13 feet, nose-to-tail, and that the new model will feature optional all-wheel-drive, much like the similarly sized Mini Countryman.

The 500X is expected to follow the 500L into production for Europe later this year, then follow the 4-door to the U.S. market in 2013.

It is expected to help Fiat not only expand its appeal but to specifically target the popular Mini brand.  That British marque has steadily expanded its own range of offerings and this week announced it will add a seventh product line, the Mini Paceman, next year.

(For more on the Paceman announcement, Click Here.)

Fiat currently offers a range of variants of the brand’s smallest model, the 500, including a standard coupe, a convertible and that higher-performance Abarth edition.

The Abarth has proved highly popular since making its American debut in mid-spring.  Fiat has had to advise dealers it will no longer take orders for the 2012 model.  It is planning to boost capacity for the 2013 model-year.

Abarth’s added momentum has helped Fiat’s U.S. dealers generate overall sales 20,706 units for the first half of 2012 – more than the brand sold in all of 2011.  The maker had originally forecast volume closer to 50,000 for that first year on the market, a number it now could hit this year.

 

McBlog: Fiat Delivers a slap in the face.

Where’s the lease?

by on May.29, 2012

Supermodel Catinel Menghia poses with a Fiat 500 Abarth. She can slap us any day, but why is Fiat punching out its customers? asks McBlog author Denise McCluggage.

Doug, a friend and regular at Santa Fe’s Tuesday Car Table, test drove a Fiat 500 Cabriolet that I had for a week and loved it. But considering our city’s 7000-feet altitude decided a turbo was indicated. He’d wait for the Abarth. He told Fred Vang, another Car Table regular, to order one for him. That’s what Fred does, connects people and cars.

As a Personal Car Consultant he helps clients decide what new car best suits their needs and does all the wheeling-dealing and sees that they get the best deal delivered ding-free and clean to their door.

Fred is fond of telling clients: “You seem to know what you want but do me a favor: dance with a couple more before you get married.”

In this case since Doug had driven a number of alternatives, the dancing was Fred running numbers, checking with many sources for prices on three cars, all with Doug’s options. The three: Mini Cooper S, VW Golf GTI and the Fiat Abarth.

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Fred compiled the numbers on a grid and presented them to Doug with a detailed explanation. Doug said it was like “a slap in the face” like in the Fiat Abarth ad featuring the leggy model Catrinel Menghia, dressed in red and black. And that’s why Doug arrived at our monthly Car Table driving a new VW Golf GTI.

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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.

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Clint Eastwood Makes Chrysler’s Day

Delivers striking Super Bowl “Halftime” message for automaker.

by on Feb.06, 2012

"It's halftime in America," declared actor Clint Eastwood in the latest Chrysler Super Bowl ad.

He didn’t sell beer, corn chips or soft drinks, and he certainly wasn’t aiming for laughs. But Clint Eastwood’s unusual appearance in a Chrysler corporate Super Bowl commercial has become one of the widely watched game’s most talked-about spots.

The turn by the well-respected star marked the second year in a row that Chrysler focused as much or more on a social issue as on its own products with a long and costly commercial dubbed, “It’s Halftime in America.”

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In 2011, the resurgent automaker enlisted rapper Eminem to anchor a 2-minute commercial that focused specifically on Detroit, a city – and a domestic industry — long counted out by many Americans.  For Super Bowl XLVI, the highly cinematic and equally lengthy Chrysler spot opens with an actor sometimes known as “the man with no name” emerging from the shadows to address the troubled times the nation is now facing.

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Fiat Releases First Images of 500L

Debut set for Geneva, U.S. sales to launch in 2013.

by on Feb.03, 2012

Fiat reveals the new 500L before its official Geneva Motor Show preview.

Following up on a report in TheDetroitBureau.com earlier in the week, Fiat has confirmed it will unveil a larger version of its pint-sized Cinquecento at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show.

To be called the Fiat 500L, the 5-door hatchback will arrive in U.S. dealer showrooms in 2013, the maker confirmed.  The American version will be offered only in a 5-seat configuration, but buyers in Europe and other parts of the world will be able to order the new 500L in a 7-seat layout, as well.

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Short for “Large,” the 500L will still be one of the smallest models on U.S. roads, measuring just over 163 inches, nose-to-tail.  That’s about 2.5 inches more than the current Fiat 500 Coupe. And it still lands the new offering squarely into the B-, or minicar, category.

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Fiat Offering Track Day for Abarth Buyers

Many makers offer track time with high-performance models.

by on Jan.17, 2012

Fiat's 160-hp 500 Abarth will come with a free day of track time, much like partner Chrysler offers those who buy its SRT muscle cars.

Fiat’s little 500 may be cute but it doesn’t quite fall into the performance category – or, at least, it hasn’t until now.  The new Abarth edition transforms what Italians know as the Cinquecento into a pint-sized muscle car.

The new version will boost the base Fiat 500’s output from a modest 101 horsepower to 160 by adding a turbocharger to its 1.4-liter MultiAir engine.  The Abarth edition also features what Fiat describes as a “track-tuned” suspension.

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Buyers will have a chance to find out what that means.  As part of the $22,000 purchase price the maker is including a full day of track time.  Specific details likely won’t be available until around the time the first Fiat 500 Abarths go on sale in U.S., in late March, but a spokesman said the plan is to stage as many as 20 Richard Petty Driving Experience events around the country this year.

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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.

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