Fiat's fiery little 500 Abarth, bearing the distinctive scorpion logo has been launched globally and could well be on its way to SA.
The little hatchback grows some serious attitude in the form of special bumpers, bigger air intakes, tailgate spoiler and a more bulbous front end (to accommodate the turbocharger).
But Fiat insists the changes are more than just window-dressing. This little racer remains true to the legendary 500 Abarths that ripped it up in the 60s.
Interiors are turbocharged too and get Abarth-specific instruments, such as an LED gear shift indicator (GSI) and an analogue pressure gauge. A new feature, GSI indicates shifts foreither better fuel efficiency or better performance, depending on whether Normal or Sport modes have been selected.
Furthermore, the three-spoke steering wheel is levelled off at the base for better driver comfort, the aluminium pedals are studded with rubber inserts and the gear knob and hand brake lever are finished in leather trim. But all that trim is nothing without some go...
Familiar T-Jet engine
Power is provided by the very feisty Euro 5-compliant 1.4-litre 16-valve turbocharged unit that in 500 generates 99 kW at 5 500 r/min and, in Sports mode using the overboost function, peak torque of 206 Nm at 3 000 r/min. In Normal mode, the maximum torque figure is 180 Nm at 2 500 r/min. The powerplant is mated with a five-speed manual gearbox.
500 Abarth has a top end of 205 km/h and sprints from standstill to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds. Fiat claims fuel consumption on a combined cycle of 5.4 l/100 km.
500 Abarth may be quick and almost frugal, but it's also safe. It is fitted with seven airbags as standard and active safety equipment includes ABS with EBD, ESP, ASR, HBA and hill holder for those tricky hill starts.
Another new feature is TTC Torque Transfer Control that transfers the drive torque to the wheels and should be a boon during cornering. This should be further assisted by the low ride height and sports suspension using a McPherson arrangement with anti-roll bar at the front and a semi-independent torsion beam with anti-roll bar at the rear.
Fiat Auto SA has said the 500 Abarth is currently under evaluation for the South African market. If sold here, it will become available during the first half of 2009.