Fiat Automobiles tuner brand Abarth has just released the Abarth 500C in the UK. It’s a convertible version of their hot little micro-hatch the Abarth 500, which is itself, a tuned up version of the Fiat 500 and 500C respectively.
It might seem confusing, but Abarth, which has been tuning cars for sixty years when Austrian-Italian Karl (Carlo) Abarth and Italian Armando Scaliarini founded Abarth & Co. S. r.1 company in 1949/1950 in Bologna.
They were tied up with Porsche cars for some years but then began focusing on those from Fiat.
Abarth was bought by Fiat in 1971 but apart from some co-branding executions and preparing the Fiat Group’s rally cars the brand was allowed to fall by the wayside.
The Abarth brand was used again in the 80’s to brand hot Fiat’s such as the very capable Fiat Ritmo Abarth 130 TC. This was a proper hot hatch capable of outrunning the Golf GTI, Ford XR3i and Vauxhall GTE at the time, with performance numbers like 0-60 km/h in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 122 mph.
Through the 90’s and to 2007 Abarth lay dormant until it’s re-launch in 2008 as a stand-alone performance brand under the Fiat Group.
The Abarth 500C is a tidy piece of kit with a 1.4-litre 140 HP (103kW) Turbocharged four cylinder engine producing 206 Nm at 2000 rpm in sport mode.
The Fiat 500 is a tiny car and its general performance is quite good, but as an Abarth, it’s exceptionally good. Top Speed is 128 mph (206 km/h) and 0-62 mph takes just 8.1 seconds and you’ll get an outstanding 43.5mpg (5.4L/100km) combined.
There’s no gear lever with the standard fit five-speed Abarth Competizione transmission just four console mounted buttons for the various drive modes. The gearbox can function as an automatic using the M/A button or you can shift via paddles behind the steering wheel.
There’s also a ‘Sport’ button, which speeds up shift times in manual or auto modes as well as engaging the ‘Torque Transfer Control’ and increases weight in the electric power steering.
If that doesn’t do it for you, then buyers will soon be able to upgrade to an ‘esseesse’ performance kit, which remaps the ECU for 160 bhp (119kW) and speeds up shift times further.
Additionally, there’s a brake upgrade and 17-inch alloys replace the 16-inch wheels.
The Abarth 500C’s suspension has been completely re-tuned for excellent handling but at the same time is more complaint for ride comfort.
Although a front wheel drive car, the Abarth comes with a Torque Transfer Control System (TTC), which helps control understeer around corners using the ESP and brake systems.
Brakes are discs all round with 280mm up front and 240mm on the rear along with ABS, EBD and HBA as standard equipment.
Safety equipment on board the Abarth 500C is first rate with seven airbags, while night vision should be excellent with its standard fit Xenon headlamps.
As you would expect, the Abarth 500C has a way more muscular stance the ordinary Fiat 500.
The front end of the car has been redesigned to allow the turbocharged engine to fit into what was already a tight engine bay. The car’s length has actually been increased by a couple of centimetres.
Deep side skirts and wider wheel arches give the car a tough stance on the road, as do the rear diffuser and twin exhaust tips, which provide a sporty engine note.
The soft top is electrically operated and can be activated at up to 37 mph (60km/h). It’s a double-layered hood with a glass rear window.
Standard equipment includes rear parking sensors, air conditioning with pollen filter, front and rear foglights, Central Control Locking and electric windows and door mirrors
Music is via an MP3/CD/Radio with four 40W speakers and two 30W tweeters. There’s also a Blue&Me handsfree system for telephone and audio controls.
There’s a separate dial for Turbo boost and a large single dial handles the speed and rev gauges.
For track day junkies, there’s an optional Blue&Me MAP, which can act as a Satellite Navigation unit or the car’s telemetry system.
The unit can also pinpoint exactly where the car is on track and show lap times, which can be accessed by drivers who want to improve their times.
Inside is all Abarth with metal effect paddles and high back sports seats featuring white stitching and a superb leather grip steering wheel and body coloured dashboard round off the look. The front passenger also gets a rally style brace in the footwell.
Carlo Abarth continued to run his business until he died in 1979 and was always involved in Motor sport. In 1980 Abarth won its third World rally Championship.
Abarth now runs the Abarth Grand Punto S2000 in Europe and the Trofeo Abarth 500 GB, a series running 190bhp (141kW) Abarth Assetto Corse models on circuits around England.
While the Fiat 500 and 500C are both available in Australia, it seems that there will be some delay before Australian importer Ateco lands any Abarth cars here. PR boss at Ateco Edward Rowe, told CarAdvice that he hopes to see the Abarth 500 here before the end of the year, but that even that schedule could be disrupted due to demand in Europe.