A very popular type of sports car from the past few decades has been the “hot hatch,” or small hatchbacks tuned to deliver speed with fuel economy. A fast version of the Fiat 500, the Abarth 500, is set to debut in America in the near future.
Tribute to Fiat racing history
Italian auto firm Fiat has been planning a return to American shores since it bought controlling interest in the Chrysler auto conglomerate. Dealerships have been starting to sell the Fiat 500, the small hatchback that has been such a big seller for the brand all over Europe, and the Fiat 500 convertible is slated to debut at the L.A. Auto Show next month.
According to USA Today, Fiat has also announced that the L.A. Auto Show will also feature the debut of the performance model of the 500, the Abarth. The Abarth, which was unveiled in Europe in 2007, is named for Karl Abarth, who helped Fiat gain racing successes in the late 1960s. The racing company bearing Abarth’s name, according to Wikipedia, tuned Fiats for racing until Fiat bought it in 1971. Abarth has since been a trim and performance package on Fiats.
Pint sized performance
The Fiat 500 Abarth won’t be supercar-fast, but it will have some zip. According to MotorTrend, the Fiat 500 Abarth will have the standard 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that powers the typical Fiat 500, the “Cincequinto” in Italian. However, the Abarth’s motor, which Fiat calls “MultiAir,” is fitted with a turbocharger. The car will also come with a race-tuned suspension, flared wheel wells and 17-inch tires.
The European version of the Abarth produces 135 horsepower. A Fiat 500 usually weighs about 1 ton, so it’s going to likely feel sporty for a car of its size. The 500 Abarth SS or “Esseesse” package is even sportier, coming with 160 horsepower. However, that model is only available in Europe for the time being. According to Wikipedia, the MultiAir 1.4-liter engine gets a combined 33 miles per gall0n when equipped with a five-speed manual transmission.
Fiat500abarth.us, a blog devoted to Fiat 500 Abarth rumors with special focus on the car coming to the U.S., says there is a version of the MultiAir 1.4-liter turbo engine that produces up to 170 horsepower, which may be fitted to the American version of the Abarth.
More hot hatches coming to the U.S.
According to Popular Mechanics, Ford will debut performance versions of the Focus and Fiesta next year. Though already available overseas, the Focus ST and Fiesta ST have been eagerly awaited for some time.
The Focus ST, debuting in early 2012, will come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that should produce around 250 horsepower and cost about $25,000. About six months later, the Fiesta ST will launch, featuring a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine and sport-tuned suspension. It should be less than the Focus ST, but not by much.
Volkswagen is also rolling out the new Golf R next year, featuring a 280 horsepower engine, all-wheel-drive and a sport-tuned suspension with traction control.