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by Tim Beissmann

After months of waiting, the Abarth brand will arrive in Australia in March with the launch of the 2011 Abarth 500 Esseesse. Just one piece of advice: don’t call it a Fiat.

Australian importer Ateco Automotive has made very clear that the correct name for the vehicle is the ‘Abarth 500 Esseesse’ and that it carries no Fiat badging.

Abarth Australia general manager, Andrei Zaitzev, said the Abarth 500 had been in Ateco’s sights for Australia since its launch in 2008, but admitted overseas demand had pushed its local arrival back.

“Blame the European performance car enthusiasts for the delay in the Abarth 500 arriving in Australia,” Mr Zaitzev said.

However, he said in some ways the delay was a blessing in disguise for Australian Abarth fans.

“The delay, though, has provided one major advantage – we will launch in March with the Abarth 500 Esseesse, the top version which can rocket to 100 km/h in just 7.4 seconds.”

Compared with the standard Abarth 500, the Esseesse version (pronounced ‘SS’ for ‘Super Sport’) produces an extra 18kW from its 1.4-litre engine (99kW vs 117kW). Torque is also up from 206Nm to 230Nm.

The standard Fiat 500 in Australia produces 74kW and 131Nm of torque.

Numbers like that will no doubt see it rival the Volkswagen Polo GTI for performance, which is rated at 132kW and 250Nm.

Abarth Australia says the 500 Esseesse will have a top speed of 211km/h and sprint from 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds. When drivers aren’t trying to break lap records, however, its combined cycle fuel consumption will be a tidy 6.5 litres/100km (just 0.2 litres/100km more than the standard Fiat 500).

The 500 Esseesse features a five-speed manual transmission, extra lowered suspension, uprated springs and suspension, cross-drilled brake discs and 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber.

Abarth is yet to confirm the final specifications of the 500 Esseesse destined for Australia, but says pricing will be “keen” when the vehicle arrives in the middle of March.




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