Fiat and Alfa Romeo’s historic Balocco test facility just outside of Milan was the venue for the launch of the all-new 500 Abarth – a car that first saw the light of day at this year’s 78th Geneva Motor show.
Due to go to market from July 19 in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, France and the Netherlands, the new 500 Abarth was developed by the Abarth engineers in the spirit of the legendary 500 Abarth cars of the 1960s i.e. this is a bespoke sporting proposition and not merely a 500 with racing add-ons. (The 500 Abarth is currently under evaluation for the South African market. Should this model get the green light, it will become available locally during the first half of 2009.)
In fact, with the introduction of this car, a whole new world has been reborn around the Abarth brand, hinging on the fact that Abarth has always been a byword for lively cars, passion and great emotion – and now it is back with the intention of appealing to the dreams of all motorsport lovers.
The new Abarth is, however, first and foremost a company in its own right with a diverse organisation (led by its CEO Luca De Meo), with its own headquarters and production workshop divided into four levels, with a product range and a dedicated distribution network: flagship store, dealerships, specialised preparation shops and service workshops.
Last September saw the first Abarth reinterpretation carried out on the Grande Punto and now comes the turn of the brand new 500 Abarth to add another notch to this ambitious project of Fiat Group Automobiles.
Sporty and practical style: an ideal stylistic balance between past and future
The style of the 500 Abarth, created by the Fiat Group Automobiles style centre, chimes perfectly with the Scorpion tradition and is no mere window-dressing but significantly contributes to the car’s performance. The best example of this approach to styling lies in the particular attention devoted to the aerodynamics and function of certain elements.
For example, the rear view of the 500 Abarth is typified by the presence of a special bumper, aerodynamic extractor, twin exhaust terminal and tailgate spoiler that give it a sporting look but also excellent aerodynamic performance. A scorpion logo is printed above the silencer, just as on the historical Abarth exhausts.
The front end makes a specific statement that the 500 Abarth is an out-and-out GT: the three-part pattern formed by the air intakes comprises a central intake that is larger than on the basic model, and an upper slot (above the number plates) that is also wider. The two symmetrical ‘nostrils’ on either side of the bumpers correspond exactly to the position of two corresponding intercoolers that can be seen through the openings and are there to ensure air is able to flow in and out.
The front end is more pronounced to create the space needed for the turbocharger. This makes the side profile of the 500 Abarth quite bulbous and striking in pitch-perfect Abarth tradition: on the 850 TC and 1000 TC models, no-nonsense external manifolds were a recognisable feature of the brand. The Abarth logo ‘floats’ on a finned surface that acts as an additional air intake. Abarth badges are positioned on the sides, crossed by a three-coloured thunderbolt, exactly as on the Abarth 595 and 695 Abarth of the 1960s, to symbolise the brand’s racing vocation.
The wheel rims, available in 16 and 17 inch sizes, come in different styles: from multispoked rims to rims bordered by holes (the reference to the forged wheel motifs of the 1970s is clear).
Racing interiors for the satisfaction of a sporty drive
The out-and-out racing interiors on the 500 Abarth feature specific instruments and an analogue pressure gauge used to measure the turbo pressure. The pressure gauge contains a ‘GSI’ (Gear Shift Indicator) that turns on an LED to encourage the driver to shift gear.
The main gauge, with sporting graphics, is lipped on top to offer further protection against glare while the three-spoke steering wheel incorporates moulded grips for the thumbs and is levelled off at the base to ensure increased passenger room and space for adjustment.
The aluminium pedals with rubber inserts also reveal a clear racing vocation, as does the gear knob (leather trimmed with a more ergonomic grip for sporty use) and handbrake lever grip (also in leather).
The seats with head restraints built into the back rest also reveal a special Abarth design with a wraparound configuration in order to hold the body tightly in position even when cornering. They can be trimmed in leather, in two black or red specifications, or in two types of different cloth.
Top level driving safety and satisfaction
Created to meet the toughest standards, the 500 Abarth is one of the safest cars in its entire segment. Stable, effective braking plus good pick-up ensured by the 99 kW power unit and predictable handling at all times allow the new car to sail serenely through critical situations.
The 500 Abarth is also fitted as standard with 7 airbags (two front, two window bags, two sidebags and one for knee protection): a record for this car category. The new model also features technically sophisticated products to ensure effective car control by the driver (active safety): including ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), the sophisticated ESP (Electronic Stability Program), ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) Hill Holder devices to help the driver during hill starts and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) to help in emergency stops.
For the very first time in this segment, the new 500 Abarth also offers two features that are appealing by any standards: the ‘TTC’ (Torque Transfer Control) and ‘GSI’ (Gear Shift Indicator) systems. The first device improves the transfer of drive torque to the wheels and, in particular, guarantees excellent cornering behaviour thus making the car safer and more entertaining during a sporty drive.
The ‘GSI’ (Gear Shift Indicator) encourages the driver to shift gear by turning on a special indicator on the control panel (an LED flashes five consecutive times). In detail, if normal mode has been selected, the system tells the driver that fuel savings could be made by shifting to another gear. If the driver continues in sport mode, the gearshift suggestion aims to achieve the best possible performance.
The 500 Abarth also offers all the properties of dynamism and comfort that allow its users to tackle longer, more demanding routes in comfort. This is also due to the suspension configuration: the front system is a Mac Pherson configuration while the rear suspension features interconnected wheels (i.e. semi-independent) with a torsion beam. Created from a Magneti Marelli design, both selected configurations have been appropriately revised and developed for the new vehicle to ensure great handling and top level driving comfort.
Powerful, smooth power units
Abarth cars are known and appreciated throughout the world as sporty cars that are able to offer the challenge of a great tradition of races and victories through outstanding motor engineering. Cars that enhance everyday driving experiences with a true racing feel and authentic driving satisfaction.
The new 500 Abarth upholds these characteristics but if necessary can also offer something more: more performance, more handling, better braking capacity. All the dynamic performance of a car destined for the track, in other words.
The credit goes mainly to the exuberant engine concealed beneath the bonnet: a Fire 1.4 16v petrol Turbo engine that delivers a maximum power of 99 kW at 5500 rpm and a maximum torque of 206 Nm at 3000 rpm in ‘Sport’ mode (in ‘Normal’ mode, the torque remains 180 Nm at 2500 rpm). A power unit that ensures a thrilling performance while also making the 500 Abarth extremely satisfying to drive even during day-to-day use.
In detail, the engine is a 1368 cm3 4 cylinder 16 valve unit (turbo charged with a fixed geometry IHI RHF3-P turbocharger) that delivers exhilarating performance. Top speed is 205 km/h while acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h takes place in just 7.9 seconds. This is partly achieved by the overboost function, activated by the ‘Sport’ button that modulates control unit mapping and turbo pressure in addition to load on the steering wheel. Yet all this typically Abarth sportiness comes with very frugal fuel consumption: 5.4 l/100 km over a combined cycle.
The new spirited, smooth power unit also reveals itself to be gentle on the environment: the new Abarth is already designed to meet the toughest restrictions imposed by future European standards (Euro 5), and already complies with the emission limits that are due to enter into force in 2009.
It should also be remembered that the 99 kW 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet belongs to the new T-jet family that applies the philosophy of downsizing: the adoption of a new-generation turbocharger, combined with a smaller capacity engine, allows us to achieve performance levels that are comparable to or even better than higher-capacity power units, but with lower fuel consumption and emissions.
And more: the presence of the turbo significantly increases the maximum torque, making it available at a lower RPM, but with the results of offering greater flexibility and an unrivalled response compared to conventional aspirated engines. All this comes with an essential construction simplicity that benefits the strength and reliability.
Blue&MeTM MAP with Telemetry makes its debut on the 500 Abarth. This additional highly innovative service has been developed by Magneti Marelli as a result of know-how built up in the world of racing and combines an aid to sporting performance with the advantages of Blue&MeTM MAP (Europe only).
The monitoring function displays the main acquired in-car parameters (engine rpm, vehicle speed, gear engaged) that are transferred from the Blue&MeTM to the PND (Portable Navigation Device) Bluetooth.
The TRACK function, accessible if the driver is on one of the circuits present in the device’s SD memory, displays a set of additional information such as the car’s position on the track (by means of GPS) and trip time.
The configuration function makes it possible to store telemetric data for a route and associate it with a personalised session (identified by the driver’s name, circuit, date). The information recorded may be retrieved easily and also analysed at a later stage using the analysis function.
The Blue&MeTM MAP 500 represents a new frontier in the portable navigation system market: the system is safe and easy to use due to the high level of on-board integration from an electrical/mechanical viewpoint (achieved by means of a specific support in the dashboard) and also from the viewpoint of connectivity, ensured by a Bluetooth connection to the Blue&MeTM platform.
The benefits of this structure are considerable: the device uses data from the car CAN network to improve navigation, voice messages are played by the on-board sound system, navigation pictograms are replicated on the instrument panel and the destination may be entered by means of keys on the steering wheel or by means of voice commands.
Technical data: 99 kW 500 Abarth 1.4 16v Turbo T-Jet
4 cylinders in line with 4 valves per cylinder, 1368 cm3.
Power output: 99 kW at 5500 rpm.
Maximum torque 206 Nm at 3000 rpm in ‘SPORT’ mode.
Turbocharged with variable geometry IHI RHF3-P turbocharger.
5-speed C510 gearbox.
Mc Pherson configuration with anti-roll bar at front.
Rear configuration with wheels interconnected through a torsion beam with anti-roll bar.
Dualdrive electric power steering with SPORT setting.
ZPH 4.1.2 floating front calliper, 54mm diameter piston.
Ventilated front brake discs, diameter 284 x 22 mm.
CII 34 floating rear calliper, 34 mm diameter piston.
240 mm diameter x 11 mm rear brake disc.
Standard: 6.5 x 16″ aluminium alloy rim – Tyres: 195/45 R16″.
Options: 7x 17″ aluminium alloy rim – Tyres: 205/40 R17″.
Complies with Euro 5 CEE-F5 standard.
CO2 emissions 155 g/km.
urban cycle (l/100km): 8.5
combined cycle (l/100km): 5.4
extra-urban cycle (l/100km): 6.5
Top speed 205 km/h.
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 7,9 sec.