Fiat has returned to America, bringing chic minicars to the few who can buy them. The performance model, the Fiat 500 Abarth, is arriving at dealerships in March.
Feel the rumble of 160 horses
For those who relish a small car that has gusto, Fiat announced last year that it would unleash the Fiat 500 Abarth — a performance-tuned version that’s been popular among hot hatch enthusiasts overseas — in the U.S.
The car, which is spruced up by Fiat’s in-house tuning division, is 1.5 times more powerful than the standard Fiat 500. According to USA Today, the wizards at Abarth took out the puny 1.4-liter MultiAir engine with its pitiful 101 horsepower and supercharged it. The result is a furious, fire-breathing beast capable of 160 horsepower. It arrives, according to Car and Driver, in March at Fiat dealerships nationwide.
Though 160 horsepower might sound underwhelming. The BMW 135i, for instance, produces 300 horsepower. However, the BMW 1 series is more than 700 pounds heavier than the Fiat. The Fiat has a higher weight-to-power ratio than the 135i. The 135i also costs $14,000 more and gets worse gas mileage.
Abarth also tunes up the suspension and puts on bigger wheels and brakes. Buyers also get a free day of “driving school,” where they learn how to handle the 500 Abarth at the Abarth Driving Experience by the Richard Petty Experience, the performance car driving school run by NASCAR driver Richard Petty. It’s only available with a five-speed transmission, according to Fiat, which gives the typical 500 better gas mileage.
The base model starts at $22,700, including a destination fee.
There are other hot hatches around the price of the Fiat, but none that match the weight-to-power ratio. The Volkswagen Golf GTI and the MiniCooper S are more expensive and less powerful, having lesser weight-to-power ratios than the 500 Abarth.
That said, there are small cars which have higher weight-to-power ratios and lower prices than the Fiat, but they are a little bigger. The base Mazda 3 five-door has a higher weight-to-power ratio than the Fiat and starts at $20,095, including destination fee. The same goes for the base Toyota Matrix, which starts at $18,845, excluding the destination fee. The base Honda CR-Z also has a higher power-to-weight ratio, gets better gas mileage because it’s a hybrid and starts at $19,545, excluding destination charge. The base Subaru Impreza also has a greater weight-to-power ratio, starts at $17,495 and comes with all-wheel-drive and more storage space and gets comparable mileage to the 500.