Abarth at the 80th Geneva Motor Show

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While not all that relevant to the South African market at this stage, Abarth, Fiat’s answer to AMG and M, is nevertheless of extreme interest as the ‘scorpioned ones’ will grace our shores before too long.

So, at this year’s Geneva show the house of the scorpion will be presenting the Abarth Punto Evo and the Abarth 500C, the latest two performance cars based on already popular and acclaimed Fiat models.

The Abarth Punto Evo is the sporty, high-tech version of the Punto Evo that Fiat introduced last September and that is due for release in South Africa within the next few months. Abarth is aiming, with this model, to reinforce its standing with young enthusiastic drivers, a process begun with the Grande Punto, which has sold best to customers in the 18 to 30 age group.

A great deal of curiosity has also been built up ahead of the launch of the Abarth 500C, the first convertible to be launched by the renewed Abarth company. This elegant and dynamic car is packed with Abarth racing spirit and the latest performance technology. The Abarth 500C is more than just a developed version of its Fiat counterpart. On the contrary, it represents a strategic choice by Abarth. With it, the company is making clear advances towards those members of the female public who are seeking not only design and elegance but a good dose of sports performance too.

Both new models will go on sale over the next few months through Abarth’s official dealer network in Europe and Japan, closely followed by other markets, and boosting the company’s already excellent results for 2009.

Proof that the direction taken by Abarth is the right one comes from the statistics. These announce quite clearly that the brand is experiencing continuous growth: from 2008 to the present day, Abarth has sold 20,000 cars, including 8,400 Abarth 500s and 2,700 Abarth Grande Puntos, to say nothing of 3,300 performance kits. So it is no wonder that this impressive commercial success has led to an equally rapid growth in the number of dealers and official performance centres associated with the marque.

As well as consolidating its existing markets, Abarth is also extending its network in strategic European towns and cities like Amsterdam and Paris, and expanding into east European markets like Rumania, as well as Mediterranean basin markets like Israel. The Abarth distribution network is already unique, boasting 141 showrooms, 140 official performance centres and 300 service centres in Europe. These figures do not take account of the recently established “Abarth Racing” performance tuning network, which already boasts 6 centres holding exclusive sales and assistance rights for customers purchasing Abarth’s race-ready models.

IN DETAIL: Abarth Punto Evo

The new 165 HP / 121 kW Multiair 1.4 turbo petrol engine is the result of a winning partnership between Fiat Powertrain Technology and Abarth race-derived know-how. Since the Fiat Powertrain engine was first presented at last year’s Geneva motor show, Abarth engineers have been working hard to squeeze every last drop of power out of it and to improve its sporting performance in typical Abarth style.

Multiair engine technology has revolutionised the world of petrol engines. Compared to a conventional petrol engine of equivalent size, a MultiAir engine develops more power (up to 10%) and more torque (up to 15%), while consuming significantly less (up to 10%) and emitting less CO2 (up to 10%), fewer particulates (up to 40%) and less NOx (up to 60%).

The genius of the Multiair engine is embodied in its electro-hydraulic valve control system. Both fuel consumption and pollutant emissions have been slashed by using the engine’s intake valves to control the air flow directly, without a butterfly valve in the intake.

Using this already advanced technology as a starting point, Abarth’s development department has made a series of modifications to arrive at the innovative new 165 HP / 121 kW Multiair 1.4 16 V. Power output, for example, has been optimised by the intelligent application of a new, larger turbocharger from Garrett. The result is superb performance with peak torque of 250 Nm (25.5 kgm) at 2250 rpm, and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in only 7.9 seconds.

The sporty new Abarth Punto Evo also features a new performance mode selection system that modulates engine, braking and steering action to offer a choice of two different driving styles – Sport and Normal – to suit road conditions and driver preference.

The mode selector is conveniently located on the central tunnel in front of the gear lever and lets you switch between the two modes quickly and easily, simply by moving a lever. The currently selected mode is displayed on the dashboard. If you are looking for a safe, relaxing drive, all you have to do is select Normal mode, while if you feel the need to enjoy the full performance of your Abarth Punto Evo, flip the switch to Sport position and thrill to the power!

Sport mode makes the car more responsive, using electrical servo systems to modify handling and deliver the ultimate sporting feel. Due attention has also been paid to safety of course, so Sport mode also engages the TTC system automatically.

As in rally cars, the driver is assisted by GSI (Gear Shift Indicator). On the Abarth Punto Evo, GSI acts like an intelligent “co-driver” and provides a signal on the instrument panel to tell you when the right moment has arrived to shift up reducing fuel consumption.

The Abarth Punto Evo’s 1.4 Multiair petrol engine also features Fiat’s innovative Start&Stop system. This switches the engine off automatically when the vehicle comes to a halt and the engine is left to idle, and restarts it again as soon as you are ready to move off. The system finds its ideal application in situations like city traffic and sequences of traffic lights. Whenever the control logic permits, Start&Stop automatically switches off the engine, saving up to 10% of fuel consumption and emissions in the urban cycle and up to 3.5% in the NEDC test cycle.

As soon as you take your foot off the brake or engage first gear, the system immediately restarts the engine to give you instant power and responsiveness. On top of this, if you accidentally stall the engine while moving off, all you have to do is press down on the clutch to re-start it automatically. Start&Stop offers additional benefits in terms of comfort since it eliminates noise and vibrations from the passenger compartment while the car is stationary.

The system is fully interactive, and tells you whether the function is engaged or not via clear indications on the instrument panel. Start&Stop can be disengaged quickly and easily by a switch on the dashboard near the steering column.

The innovative Multiair engine guarantees sports performance plus low emissions and reduced fuel consumption. Tests carried out by Abarth engineers have demonstrated that fuel consumption has been reduced despite the fact that power output has been increased. In particular, consumption is only 8.1 l/100 km in the urban cycle; only 6.0 l/100 km in the combined cycle, and 4.8 l/100 km in the extra-urban cycle. The Multiair engine is also impressively clean and already conforms to Euro 5 standards thanks to emissions of only 142 g/km.

The Evolution of active and passive safety:

The Abarth philosophy combines both performance and safety. The Abarth Punto Evo is therefore equipped with a series of highly effective systems to guarantee safe handling on all surfaces.

TTC (Torque Transfer Control) is the key to the car’s active safety. TTC improves the transfer of torque from the engine to the wheels and guarantees excellent handling on bends, making fast driving safer and more fun than ever.

TTC is a differential locking system that uses the mechanical differential as a reactive element in the transmission to control torque via the braking system and ESP sensors (wheel speed, steering angle, yaw, etc.). TTC is activated automatically in Sport mode. When engaged, the system automatically adjusts the degree of diff locking applied in accordance with dynamic factors like speed.

In the area of safety, the Abarth Punto Evo sets new standards thanks to 7 airbags, including a driver knee airbag. The Punto Evo is one of very few cars in its segment with a driver knee airbag fitted as standard on all versions.

The Abarth Punto Evo also boasts a powerful and effective braking system. Disc brakes are fitted to all wheels, with ventilated discs and Brembo double piston, fixed calipers at the front.

The suspension system is derived from a tried and tested Abarth configuration. Front suspension is provided by independent McPherson struts, while rear suspension is semi-independent with a torsion bar. Abarth has also fitted a larger anti-roll bar together with front springs that are 20% harder than those of a standard suspension system. The result is impeccable road holding plus a high level of passenger comfort.

The Evolution of race-inspired aerodynamics:

Also on a style level, the changes that Abarth have made to the Punto Evo concentrate on improving the car’s performance and aerodynamics. Compared to the Fiat version of the car, the front bumper has been extended in width to incorporate the side flaps.

The black intake cowl on the front has also been made deeper to match the lateral air outlets. This corrects and controls air flow and significantly improves aerodynamic efficiency around the sides of the car, just as on the full rally version.

The rear of the Abarth features a completely redesigned bumper incorporating side air outlets. The diffuser, designed to optimise air flow, is a major feature of the bumper. The diffuser is the same as on the previous version, but has been given a new surround to enhance its looks and align its styling with the front splitter.

The exhaust features larger diameter twin tail pipes, an obvious tribute to Abarth’s glorious history. The new pipes, however have been given a different satin finish. The reversing lights and rear fog lights have been moved to the centre of the diffuser, forming a focal point as on formula racing cars, while new side reflectors outline and accentuate the profile of the aerodynamic deflector, simulating the effect created by the LED light cowl on the rear window.

The spoiler has been completely redesigned, not only in terms of colour (it is now the same colour as the rest of the body, giving the car a longer, more dynamic look), but in terms of size too. Its longer, tapered shape has improved the car’s CX and CZ values and made the new Abarth Punto Evo more stable than its predecessor.

The logo trim has also been redesigned and combined with a new grille with a more sporty appearance. In the same way the badge is no longer round as on the previous version but has returned to the original shape, as used on the 500.

The side flaps and skirts are finished in the same colour as the body, emphasising the car’s aggressive nature and its “stuck to the road” handling. The side graphics have also been restyled to match the front bumper and given new dimensions. The result is more in proportion with the side of the car and gives the body colour areas a sleeker appearance. Another new feature is the completely redesigned 17” spoked wheels, with the Abarth scorpion logo in the centre.

The car’s interior has been completely updated too. The new materials have an appearance and finish inspired by the surface of motor racing circuits, bringing all the excitement of the track into the car. The new central control console is divided into two sections. The audio section is characterised by a black surface and a central LCD display. Underneath, a separate section houses the air conditioning controls. The top of the console houses the air vents and a storage compartment.

The purpose-designed Jaeger instrumentation features larger dials for the speedometer and rev counter, new race-inspired graphics, and a new anti-glare cowling covered in leather with open red and yellow stitching.

The visual link with the new textured seats is obvious. The seats and seat backs are upholstered in soft black leather while the seat sides are finished in high-tech fabric to give the ideal balance between comfort, breathability and wear resistance.

Customers can still choose the optional “Abarth Corse” seats by Sabelt. These seats offer a perfect blend of racing characteristics including light weight and the ability hold the body steady against lateral and longitudinal forces.

The Evolution of power – the “SS” kit:

As was to be expected from Abarth, a high performance kit will be made available to coincide with the launch of the Abarth Punto Evo to boost engine power even further. In keeping with Abarth tradition, the tuning kit will give the new car more power than the basic model, enabling the Multiair 1.4 16v Turbo engine to develop a maximum power of 180 HP / 132 kW.

Following Abarth’s performance tuning philosophy, the “SS” kit also includes modifications to chassis components, including perforated, ventilated discs, high performance brake pads, lower springs, and 18″ Abarth “SS” alloy wheels painted in white or titanium, and fitted with performance tyres. The performance delivered by the Abarth Punto Evo “SS” kit is further enhanced by a special “powered by BMC” air filter.

As with the Grande Punto and the 500, the Abarth Punto Evo’s “SS” kit comes in a classic wooden performance case. To guarantee the highest standards of quality and safety, the kit can only be installed by Abarth’s official performance tuning network.

IN DETAIL: Abarth 500C

The brand new Abarth 500C is the result of developments in both style and performance. This is not the first time that Abarth has undertaken the performance tuning of a convertible and the company has used all its past experience to improve both stylistic and technical factors.

While the eye is inevitably drawn to the new body finish, based on elegant two-tone colour schemes, the extended, dynamic-looking spoiler instantly reminds you that the Abarth 500C is first and foremost a high class sportster. In addition to enhancing the aggressive appearance of the 500C, the spoiler effectively boosts CZ loading and creates a smoother air flow.

The looks of the Abarth 500C have also benefited from the new design 17″ diamond finished alloy wheels, including the sought-after diamond finished 5 petal white wheels. Another strong point of the Abarth 500C is its exceptional interior climate and acoustic comfort. Thorough aerodynamic research has minimised turbulence with the roof open, allowing the sound of the road and engine to be enjoyed to the full.

The new car therefore delivers a more complete sport driving experience and enhanced enjoyment. In an Abarth 500C, you can experience all the thrills of a real sports car. With the roof up, performance is on a par with a hard top. When the roof down, the range of sensations and emotions is dramatically extended, and includes all the pleasures of feeling the wind in your hair and the sound of the twin tail pipes.

The roof is electrically operated and slides along guides in the car’s sides to let you enjoy your Abarth 500C all year round. A true object of design, the Abarth 500C’s roof stands out for its elegant, electrically controlled movement and its impressively finished and carefully administered technical features, including a glass rear window and third brake light built into the spoiler.

The soft top comes in a choice of two colours (black or titanium grey), to suit the classic Abarth colours as well as the two dual-tone colour schemes created specially for the car: one overtly sporting (black and race white) and the other in two elegant shades of grey. Finally, a coloured graphic runs around the two-tone body, simultaneously dividing and uniting the two souls of the car: below, all the performance of a true sportster, above, all the elegance of a convertible.

Performance: Abarth tuning

The 500C is a true Abarth, as its 140 HP / 103 kW 1.4 Turbo T-Jet engine clearly shows. Performance is impressive: 0-100 km/h in only 8.1 seconds and a peak torque of 206 at 2000 rpm. An engine that not only delivers thrilling performance but also makes the Abarth 500C extremely pleasant to drive day in, day out.

The engine is a 4 cylinder, 16 valve, unit of 1,368 cc, fitted with an IHI RHF3-P fixed geometry turbocharger. The unit delivers exciting performance, pushing the car to a top speed of 205 km/h and accelerating it from 0 to 100 km/h in just 8.1 seconds.

These exceptional figures are also the result of an overboost function engaged by pressing the “Sport” button, which modifies engine control unit mapping, turbo pressure, and steering wheel loading. Yet despite its true Abarth spirit, the 500C still only consumes 6.5 l/100 km in the combined cycle.

The car’s sporting yet flexible engine is also environmentally friendly and already conforms to the strict Euro 5 standards soon to be introduced. On top of its superb engine, the Abarth 500C boasts all the technical content of the model from which it is derived, including TTC (Torque Transfer Control) The most obvious innovation, of course, is the race-derived “ABARTH Competizione” gearbox, fitted as standard.

It was 1949 and Karl Abarth officially began marketing the first product, a race-derived gearbox with steering wheel control for the Fiat Topolino, capable of delivering quick gear changes in sporty driving conditions.

With the same philosophy, more than 60 years later, the “ABARTH Competizione” is offered as standard on the Abarth 500C. This electro-hydraulically actuated, 5-speed gearbox is operated by steering wheel paddles and controlled by a system that maximises economy and performance when driven hard.

The innovative MTA-derived (Manual Transmission Automated) system is based on a conventional mechanical gearbox on which the traditional gear lever has been replaced with an actuator electronically controlled by the TCU (Transmission Control Unit) to optimise gear changes and mechanical efficiency. The gearbox can be used in two modes: auto for maximum comfort, and manual for maximum performance. “Sport” mode can be engaged in both gearbox modes and reduces gear shift times.

The new “ABARTH Competizione” gearbox makes driving even more fun thanks to race-derived functions like steering wheel paddle-shifting, just like on a real super-car.

Further confirmation that the 500C is a genuine Abarth comes from the fact that a specific “SS” tuning kit is currently being developed specially for it, offering an even higher level of performance.

The Abarth 500C is aimed at customers seeking everything the scorpion brand represents in terms of performance and innovation, plus the ultimate in style and versatility.

Safety:

The Abarth 500C incorporates all the safety systems already installed on the Abarth 500. Designed to conform to the strictest standards, the Abarth 500C is one of the safest vehicles in its class. Stable and effective braking, exhilarating acceleration from a 140 HP engine, and ultra-reliable handling mean that the Abarth 500C will get you through even the tightest scrapes without you batting an eyelid.

The 500C is equipped as standard with 7 airbags (two front, two window and two side airbags plus one driver knee airbag): a record for this class of vehicle. The new version is also equipped with sophisticated technical solutions to maximise active safety and control: these include ABS with EBD (Electronic Braking Distribution), a sophisticated ESP system (Electronic Stability Program), ASR (Anti Slip Regulation) traction control, Hill Holder to facilitate starting off on slopes, and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistance) to help with emergency braking.

The Abarth 500C also features two advanced control systems: “TTC” (Torque Transfer Control) and “GSI” (Gear Shift Indicator). TTC improves the transfer of torque from the engine to the wheels and in particular gives excellent handling on bends, making sports driving safer and more fun than ever. GSI (Gear Shift Indicator) provides a signal on the instrument panel (a LED that flashes five times) to tell you when to change gear. In Normal mode, GSI tells you that changing up will help reduce fuel consumption. In Sport mode, the signal means that changing gear will give you better performance.

Finally, the Abarth 500C is fitted with dynamic systems and comfort-enhancing equipment to ensure that occupants enjoy luxury as well as safety on all types of journey. Take the suspension system for example. The front suspension is based on independent McPherson struts, while the rear suspension is semi-independent, with an inter-connecting torsion bar. Specially developed by Magneti Marelli, both suspension schemes have been optimised specifically for the Abarth 500C to ensure superb handling and the highest possible level of comfort.