The long-anticipated 2017 Abarth 500X sports SUV has been spied out and about this week, ahead of a debut that could occur later this year.

2017_fiat_500x_abarth_spy-photos_07

Talk of an Abarth version of the new Fiat 500X surfaced in 2014, when Fiat designer Roberto Giolito hinted that the small SUV would be a perfect platform for the scorpion brand’s sports tuning program.

The 500X is a good body for Abarth,” Giolito told CarAdvice. “I can say today this is a good item. It’s absolutely perfect in terms of drivability, control. The driving seat is perfectly measured to control the car. So the Abarth would be perfect.”

2017_fiat_500x_abarth_spy-photos_09

The prototype spied this week offers a first clear look at those plans, riding on a set of lightweight Alfa Romeo wheels that hide a set of large sports brake discs and calipers.

Twin pipes feature at the rear, and CarAdvice’s spy photography connections tell us that a “quite aggressive” exhaust note was offered as the SUV pulled away.

Abarth-specific styling has yet to be spied, however, with this prototype instead caught wearing the top-shelf Cross Plus model’s styling kit.

2017_fiat_500x_abarth_spy-photos_05

An Abarth-tuned version of the new Fiat 124 Spider has also been spied testing in recent weeks, and it is expected that both will be driven by 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing close to 130kW in regular form and closer to 160kW for up-spec Essesse models.

Fiat and Abarth, for their parts, have yet to confirm plans for either model.

Watch this space.