Abarth 500: Rebirth of a legend

Abarth 500: Rebirth of a legend  
Filed under:
Hatchbacks, Sports/GTs, Fiat
on 02/17/2009

Source: Abarth

Following the huge success of Abarth’s re-launch last year, the Fiat Group’s performance division has now created the ultimate sporting expression of the 500.

By thoroughly re-engineering the highly acclaimed and universally popular city car from the ground up, Abarth has produced a machine purpose-built for the modern driving enthusiast. Not only does it look the part, thanks to bodywork that’s longer and lower than a regular 500, it’s also entertaining to own and drive while maintaining class-leading economy, low emissions and low running costs.

Already a winner of BBC Top Gear magazine’s prestigious Hot Hatch of the Year award, the Abarth 500 has been designed as the credible option for drivers seeking to express themselves through their choice of car.

As a faithful modern incarnation of the tuning firm’s ‘small but wicked’ mantra of the 1950s, this latest 500 also follows the traditional Abarth ethos of using racing experience to make rewarding, high performance road cars at an affordable price. Sales to customers then fuel the racing activities which lead to further road-car developments in what amounts to a ‘virtuous circle’. The most tangible result of this phenomenon is the high-performing 190bhp Assetto Corse version which competes in the one-make Abarth 500 Trofeo Europa.

As befits a car with its roots firmly ensconced in motorsport, all versions of the new small Abarth feature a zesty 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, which has been designed to be responsive throughout its entire rev range as well as being economical and gentle on the environment.

Squeezing a turbocharger into the tight confines of the 500’s engine bay was no mean feat, and led Abarth engineers to completely redesign the front end of the vehicle. As a testament to their skill, Abarth technicians created a deeper spoiler that feeds the engine with sufficient air while maintaining the frontal appearance of the 500.

This isn’t the only alteration to its looks compared with the regular 500 which includes adding sporty side skirts, a much larger roof spoiler, and a deep aerodynamic diffuser at the rear. These addenda are the result of hours spent in the wind tunnel and help improve the car’s stability at speed. With vents to draw hot air away from the brakes, twin tail pipes mounted at either edge of the diffuser and small scorpion logos printed just above them, the Abarth 500 is designed to leave a lasting impression on people looking at it from any angle.

But this is much more than simply a bodywork makeover. The Abarth 500’s performance is similarly and dramatically uprated, with a 128mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds. To ensure it’s as much fun to drive as it looks, the suspension has been comprehensively re-designed and the car is equipped with Torque Transfer Control to improve its poise through corners even more.

This helps make the newcomer a reassuringly safe car. Based around a Euro NCAP five-star winner, it comes with seven airbags and a host of electronic safety systems to minimise the effects of the unexpected.

The Abarth 500 is available in both standard trim and in esseesse (SS) form. The regular model is well equipped, with air-conditioning, electric front windows, seven airbags, electrically adjustable body coloured door mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, an Interscope sound system with radio, CD and MP3 file player, and Fiat’s innovative and unique Blue&Me hands-free communication system.

Optional equipment includes 17-inch wheels, Abarth leather interior, an electrochromatic anti-dazzle mirror, automatic climate control, and chequered roof stickers. There’s also Blue&Me MAP which employs motor racing technology to help drivers improve their skills at the wheel through telemetry, in addition to offering regular satellite navigation.

The esseesse version allows drivers to further upgrade their car’s performance courtesy of a retro-fit kit. This boosts engine power to 160bhp using a re-mapped ECU (Electronic Control Unit) and new air filter, as well as adding uprated brakes and springs along with unique 17-inch wheels.

In both regular and esseesse guise, the Abarth 500 interior has an uncompromisingly sporty feel. The one-piece leather-covered sports seats hug the driver and front passenger, and the thick-rimmed flat-bottomed steering wheel looks and feels as though it’s been lifted from a sports car costing twice the price. There’s a dash-mounted turbo boost gauge and gear shift indicator to help drivers get the most out of the Abarth 500’s performance when the Sport button is pressed, and aid economy when it isn’t.

It typifies a machine designed to empower owners to express their passion for driving, without sacrificing any environmental responsibilities.

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