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2012 Fiat 500 Abarth Review & Test Drive 20
Posted by Malcolm Hogan in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, featured, Fiat, Fiat 500, Fiat 500 Abarth, Test Drives on 09 20th, 2012

The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth has finally made its way to our American shores. Having had the opportunity to review the new Fiat 500 Sport and now the new performance oriented Abarth version, I can now elaborate on the stark contrast in driving characteristics and handling of the two.

The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth pays homage to European enthusiasts who simply wanted long past generations of Fiat vehicles to go faster. The legendary Karl Abarth was obliged to make that happen. Abarth is not so much of a household name in America but among the enthusiast community it simply means a turbocharged 160 horsepower Fiat 500 with track-tuned sport suspension, better brakes, an ESP (electronic stability program) that can be fully disabled and up-rated exterior/interior aesthetics.

The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is everything enthusiasts yearned for in the current sappy-performance Fiat 500. Now, rising from the ashes, the legend of Karl Abarth lives on in the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

Having spent a good amount of time in the new Fiat Abarth and taking it to a few car shows, it was interesting to hear onlookers and inquisitive minds give me their fair share of questions about this new little pocket rocket from the Italians. With a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder Mulitair engine good for 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque spun through a 5-speed manual transmission to the front wheels, the 2,533 pound Fiat 500 Abarth can scoot to 60 mph in just under 7 seconds. That is about 3 second faster than the normal Fiat 500 if you are taking note. The Abarth is able to have this performance and serve up an estimated 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

The driving experience of the Fiat 500 Abarth is rather entertaining. The distinctive exhaust note is almost enough by itself to keep your ears at bay without turning on the surprisingly decent-sounding stereo system. The sounds coming out of the dual tipped exhaust system is surly to disturb your neighbors every time you start it up. The turbo spool is noticeable, too -especially when you are near idle. Push the Abarth to redline and slap it into the next gear, you just might get some audible feedback in the form of a faint backfire, which is absolutely cool. Of course the Fiat Abarth doesn’t give you near as much snap crackle and pop as something like the MINI Cooper S Coupe, but you will have fun exhausting copious amounts of un-spent fuel. The shifter makes way for quick shifts but tends to feel much like a butter box instead of anything direct as beefed-up sports-car gear box.

When I wasn’t looking at the boost gauge needle nearing 18 PSI, I was more focused on my surroundings to put the handling dynamics of the tall-looking Fiat Abarth to the test. Although it looks to have a high center of gravity, the Abarth proves to be surprisingly rewarding on twisty roads. For obvious reasons, the Fiat is nimble and tends to handle well through turns thanks in part to a track-focused suspension and sitting about 15 millimeters closer to the ground than a normal Fiat 500. Not to mention, the larger but optional 17-inch painted wheels and wider 205/40-series Pirelli PZero Nero tires all add to the hot-hatch’s lateral grip.

A Sport mode, set through a dashboard button, greatly improves throttle response and tightens up the steering while speeding up the steering rack at the same time. Turning traction and stability control off by holding the ESP button for a few seconds will allow you to light up the front wheels taking onlookers by surprise. Torque steer is kept to a minimum. Of course that is because the wheel-spin is managed through a Torque Transfer Control (TTC) system, which is essentially an open differential and computer-actuated front brakes to redirect torque. No mechanical limited-slip is offered. Keeping the Fiat 500 Abarth in a straight line can sometimes be a challenge when it catches grooves in the road or during heavy braking. Weight is distributed to 64% on the front axle and 36% rear, keeping it shy of being balanced driver’s car.

Heavy braking, once again, is a faint reminder of the Fiat 500 Abarth’s short 90-inch wheelbase. Although the brakes are larger in the Abarth than a normal Fiat 500, the vehicle tends to have an elusive sway in different directions when ABS starts to kick in. Stopping distances have been recorded at 123 feet from 60 mph, slightly more than the Mini Cooper S’ 115 feet.

Inside of the new Fiat 500 Abarth is an interior layout familiar to that of the normal 500. Where the Abarth version takes a different approach is the thick leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel and sportier seats. The front seats, although a different variation than ones on the Fiat 500, lack the proper bolstering to match the Abarth’s handling abilities. Moreover, finding a good seating position takes an act of congress somewhat due to the steering wheel being slightly off-centered from the driver’s seating perspective. The console shifter is somewhat of a reach with it being mounted on the console. Never mind the buttery feeling of the shifter, the large size alone will feel like you are adjusting the throttle on the Titanic.

The Fiat Abarth comes with a host of standard features that you would expect from vehicles costing well under $20,000. Though, the starting price of the Abarth is $22,000 and can be optioned out with leather-trimmed seats, a safety and convenience package including auto-temp climate control/SiriusXM Satellite Radio/Security system, 17-inch forged painted and painted wheels and a removable/portable TomTom GPS navigation unit mounted through a top-dashboard port. With all of these options, as found on my 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth test vehicle, the price climbs to $26,200 including a $700 destination charge. As a comparison, a Mini Cooper S Hatchback starts at $23,100 and can rack up a much larger bill than the Abarth when the options start piling on.


Copyright: 2012 AutomotiveAddicts.com


  • Price: Base Fiat 500 Abarth $22,000 /Fiat 500 Abarth As-Tested $26,200
  • Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged Multiair 4-cylinder 160 horsepower @ 5500 rpm / 170 ft-lbs. torque @ 2500 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 90.6in.
  • Total length: 144.4in.
  • Total width: 64.1in.
  • Total height: 59.2in.
  • Track: f/r-55.4/55.0in.
  • Ground clearance: 4.1in.
  • Headroom: f/r-38.9/35.6.in.
  • Legroom: f/r-40.7/31.7in.
  • Fuel tank: 10.5 gallons
  • Turning circle: 37.6ft.
  • Interior volume: 85.1cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 2,533lbs.
  • 0-60mph: 6.9 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 28mpg/city, 34mpg/highway

Jay Leno Takes Fiat 500 Abarth Out for a ‘Burnout’ Spin: Video 27
Posted by Darryl in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Jay Leno, Jay Leno's Garage, video on 07 27th, 2012

The small Italian Fiat 500 and the performance-enhanced Fiat 500 Abarth are making there mark in America, sometimes in a literal way, at the hand of many enthusiasts including Jay Leno. In the latest Jay Leno’s Garage episode, Jay takes the small 160 horsepower for an exciting drive after getting a complete run-down from Fiat North America’s very own Tim Kuniskis.

Chrysler Sells Out Of The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth 5
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Kurt, News on 06 5th, 2012

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

In a little over a month since the Fiat 500 Abarth’s launch, the entire 2012 production run allocated for the United States has been sold out. Earlier this week, Chrysler notified Fiat dealers that it would no longer accept wholesale orders for 2012 Abarth models, and 2013 models aren’t due in dealer showrooms until this fall.

While it may be possible to locate a 500 Abarth in existing dealer inventory, those cars not already spoken for are likely to command a premium price. Customers placing orders today will be delivered 2013 models cars, but not for another three or four months.

As the Detroit News reports, this doesn’t sit well with some buyers. One noted that he’d put down a deposit in March, only to find out this week that he’d been bumped to a 2013 model and wouldn’t get delivery until September. Six months is a long time to wait, especially when immediate hot-hatch gratification can be had at a MINI, Mazda, Volkswagen or Subaru dealership.

Chrysler had originally planned on building just 1,000 Abarth models for the United States, but quickly amassed that number in pre-orders backed by cash deposits. It upped production to 3,000 units, maxing capacity at its Toluca, Mexico plant, but even that wasn’t enough to meet market demand.

There are worse problems for a brand re-establishing itself in the U.S. market to have, we suppose.

The Fiat 500 Abarth Explained: Video 20
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Kurt, video on 03 20th, 2012

If you can get around the interviewer in this video, there’s a decent amount of good information about the upcoming Fiat 500 Abarth in it. For instance, Dan Fry, lead vehicle engineer, explains the differences between the 500 Abarth sold here and the same model sold in Europe. Dan covers the suspension differences between standard Fiat 500 models and 500 Abarth versions, too, and it’s pretty clear that the Abarth is more than just a trim package with a few extra horsepower.

Alison Singer, vehicle integration engineer, explains the benefits of track-testing the car at Nelson Ledges, and even goes into a bit of detail on why the 500 Abarth will challenge the MINI Cooper for “best handling front-wheel-drive” honors. Getting a front-wheel-drive car to rotate with the throttle can be a challenge, since most simply want to understeer at the limit. If you can induce controllable oversteer with a lift of the throttle in your front-drive car, the engineers behind its development deserve extra credit.

Enjoy the video below, but here’s a note to Fiat: next time, can you get an interviewer that doesn’t come across as a complete tool?

The History Of Abarth, Expalined: Video 3
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Kurt, Technical, video on 02 3rd, 2012

The small-but-wicked Fiat 500 Abarth

The name Abarth isn’t exactly a household name in the United States, but the brand is renown among enthusiasts in Europe. Abarth never built cars to challenge Ferrari or Maserati (or even BMW); instead, Abarth built parts to make commonly available Fiats go faster. By focusing on small cars, like the Fiat Topolino or the Fiat 600, Abarth earned a reputation and a nickname of “small but wicked.”

We’ll soon get a chance to experience that in the United States, with the launch of the Fiat 500 Abarth. We’ve driven the milder Fiat 500 Sport, which handles like a go-kart but suffers from a serious lack of power. The 500 Abarth will address that, coming to the U.S. market with 160 horsepower driving the front wheels. Abarth models will also get a track-tuned suspension, up-rated brakes, a stability control program that can be disabled for track use and sport seats with serious bolstering. All Abarth models come only with a five-speed manual transmission.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the 500 Abarth is its value. Dealer price gouging aside (and we’re sure there will be plenty), the 500 Abarth will sell for just under $23,000. To get the same level of stock horsepower from a Fiat 500 in Europe, you’d have to track down an Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari edition, which would cost you in the neighborhood of $47,500.

We’re betting that the Fiat 500 Abarth will usurp the MINI Cooper as the best-handling front-driver. In fact, we’ll tell you this: if you want to fill your shelves with autocross trophies, buy a Fiat 500, drop the ride height and add stickier tires. Talent or not, we’re pretty sure that’s all you’ll need.

Velocità On The Cheap: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth Priced At Just $22,000 12
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Kurt, News on 01 12th, 2012

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

Affordable Italian sports cars used to be a staple of the American motoring diet. In the 1970s and 1980s, we had Lancias, Fiat Spyders and Fiat X/19s aplenty, and stepping up to the next price level would have gotten you an Alfa Romeo GTV or an Alfa Spyder. These cars all had a lot of personality, but most were constructed with inadequately rustproofed steel, which meant owners could watch their prized Italian automobiles decay before their very eyes. Since Italian cars weren’t renown for bulletproof reliability, either, getting stranded once or twice was usually enough to overcome their charms. In the 1980s, finding a cheap Fiat that needed work was as easy as opening the newspaper.

Fiat’s stepped up its game considerably in the years since, and its uber-cute commuter car, the Fiat 500, has been a relative success in its first year of American sales. While the diminutive city car is packed with Italian charm, there isn’t much there for driving enthusiasts, which is why Fiat is bringing in its Fiat 500 Abarth. Sporting a turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir engine good for 160 horsepower and weighing in at less than 2,400 pounds, the miniscule 500 Abarth promises to deliver a heaping helping of driving fun.

It will be affordable fun, too, since the price will start at $22,000, not including the destination charge. That buys you a surprisingly well-equipped car, including sport seats (with cutouts for a harness system), a Bose premium audio system, dual exhaust, 16-inch aluminum wheels, an Abarth-tuned suspension, bigger brakes and a boost gauge with an integrated shift light. In a segment first, you’ll also get a one-day performance driving school, dubbed the Abarth Driving Experience and conducted by instructors from the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

If that’s the good news, here’s the bad: Fiat will only be importing a limited number of 500 Abarths, and “limited production volume” tends to equal “additional dealer markup.” We hope that’s not the case with the 500 Abarth, since it could well open the door for a whole new generation of Italian car fans.

Video: The Fiat 500 Abarth Visits Jay Leno’s Garage 6
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Jay Leno's Garage, Kurt, video on 12 6th, 2011

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth will soon begin to trickle into Fiat dealerships, so Fiat chief engineer Joe Grace thought it would be an ideal time to bring one to Jay Leno’s Garage. Leno already has a standard Fiat 500, which he admits to driving on a regular basis for the entertainment value alone. Winding the 500 out to redline in each gear is fun, Leno explains, while attempting the same thing with a McLaren will likely produce jail time.

The video below includes a five-minute overview of the history of Abarth. If you’re unfamiliar with the brand, it’s worth watching, but if you’re well versed in Abarth knowledge it probably won’t teach you anything new. Oddly enough, we don’t get to see Leno driving the Abarth 500 in this episode, so there’s no sense of how the car really compares to a base 500 from an owner’s perspective.

Unlike many “sporty” versions of economy cars, the Fiat 500 Abarth has some serious thought behind it. Everything from the engine’s internals through the gearbox and suspension has been beefed up for durability and performance, and even the stability control program has been revised to include a “sport” mode and a “full off” mode for track work. We can’t wait to get behind the wheel, and we promise a full report as soon as we do.

Video: We Wonder If THIS Car Ad Will Make Prime Time 17
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Car Commercials, Fiat, Kurt, Videos on 11 17th, 2011

The purpose of a car advertisement is to stir emotion, and to get the watcher aware of a particular product. The best ads convince you that you’re missing something, and that your life won’t be complete until you drive (or better yet, buy) a particular make and model. Based on that criteria, I’d put this ad in the “Top 10 Car Ads Of All Time” category.

We wonder if this is going to make it to prime-time TV, especially here in the Bible Belt. It’s racy, it’s chock full of sexual overtones and there’s cleavage in it, which makes it wholly unsuitable for the sensitive American viewing public. If it featured violence, explosions, death and mayhem, on the other hand, it would be perfectly acceptable family viewing.

We don’t speak Italian, so we have no idea what the actress in the ad is saying. She could be reading the assembly instructions for Ikea furniture, but that wouldn’t change our desire to take the, um, car for a nice, long test drive. Several test drives, as a matter of fact.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth: “Small But Wicked” 16
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Kurt, Los Angeles Auto Show on 11 16th, 2011

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

As Karl Abarth’s tuned Fiats grew in popularity during the 1960’s, fans began to refer to them as “small but wicked.” That same design philosophy carries over to the new-to-the-U.S. Fiat 500 Abarth, which will soon be making its way to a Fiat dealer (and autocross course) near you. Unlike other front drive “sporty” cars, the Fiat 500 Abarth is actually designed with track days in mind, and it’s got more than 2 million development miles under its belt.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

The Abarth’s suspension is lower and stiffer than that of the Fiat 500, and the car benefits from larger brakes and wider tires as well. Up front, the Abarth’s springs are 40 percent stiffer than those used in the Fiat 500, and the car rides 15mm lower. Out back, the springs are 20 percent stiffer and the ride height is dropped the same 15mm. An Abarth-spec rear stabilizer bar ensures that understeer is kept in check, and additional negative camber up front maximizes lateral grip.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

The Fiat 500 Abarth gets a turbocharged and twin-intercooled 1.4-liter four-banger, good for 160 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind that the Abarth only weighs 2,533 pounds, which should make acceleration “brisk.” The MultiAir Turbo engine comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox only, which has been beefed up to handle the engine’s additional torque. The Abarth even uses thicker half shafts to ensure long-term durability

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

While the Abarth’s differential isn’t a true “limited slip” model, traction is handled via the electronic stability control system, similar to what VW does with its GTI. An included “Sport” traction control mode allows a higher degree of wheel slip and adjusts traction based on factors such as speed and lateral acceleration.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

We can’t wait to drive the new Fiat 500 Abarth, and we’re sure it’s going to give the Mini Cooper a run for the title of “best handling FWD car.” We understand the Fiat 500 Abarth, and we hope that others in the U.S. get it, too. Fiat isn’t doing well with the 500 on these shores, and the Abarth could be just the right image car at just the right time.

The 2012 Fiat Abarth: Worth Waiting For 31
Posted by Kurt Ernst in 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, Automotive, Fiat, Kurt, Los Angeles Auto Show, News on 10 31st, 2011

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

Living on this side of the Atlantic, the name Abarth isn’t exactly well known. In Europe, however, Abarth is widely recognized as the in-house tuner for Fiat, similar to what AMG is to Mercedes or NISMO is to Nissan. Abarth earned a reputation by tuning and racing cars in the 1960s and 1970s, and despite the diminutive size of the cars built, they proved more than capable of beating larger, more powerful rivals around tight European road courses.

We’ve known for a while that Fiat would bring an Abarth-tuned version of the Fiat 500 into the U.S. market, but here are the very first images of a U.S. spec car. The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth will make its official debut at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show, so Fiat hasn’t released any specific details on the car’s output. We know it will use a tuned version of Fiat’s 1.4-liter Multi-Air Turbo engine, and we know the Fiat 500 Abarth makes 133 horsepower in Euro trim. That’s good enough for a zero to sixty time of under 8 seconds, or roughly two and a half seconds quicker than the base Fiat 500.

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth. Image: Chrysler Group LLC

Still, worrying about a zero to sixty time on a car like the Fiat 500 Abarth misses the point entirely. There will always be faster cars in a straight line, but the strength of Abarth models has always been more about how the car works as an overall package. Like Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, going fast in an Fiat 500 Abarth is all about preserving momentum, and I suspect that the Mini Cooper will soon have a serious challenger to the title of best handling front-wheel-drive car.