Abarth’s small but deadly 500 now in South Africa







Published by Gerald Ferreira Date: January 12, 2012
Categories: Abarth, FIAT, Fiat 500

Abarth’s first interpretation of the 500 blasts onto the scene this new year. The new 500 Abarth was developed by the Abarth engineers in the spirit of the legendary 500 Abarth cars of the late-1950s And 1960s - an era that coined the phrase “small but deadly”. Combining technology, performance and safety the 500 Abarth draws on the brands heritage and experience in the racing arena.

Abarth South Africa

The new 500 Abarth possesses all the dynamic performance of a car destined for the racetrack. Concealed beneath the bonnet is a 1.4-litre 16-valve turbocharged petrol engine that delivers a maximum power output of 99kW at 5500rpm and a maximum torque peak of 206Nm at 3000rpm in ‘Sport’ mode (in ‘Normal’ mode, the torque delivery settles at 180Nm at 2500 rpm). The punchy power unit ensures thrilling performance while also making the 500 Abarth extremely satisfying and comfortable to drive even during day-to-day use.

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. Despite its sporty performance the Abarth remains frugal with a fuel consumption figure of just 5.4l/100 km over a combined cycle.

The 500 Abarth wears the traditional scorpion insignia with pride. Dressed to kill, the 500 Abarth’s form contributes significantly to the car’s performance. Engineers devoted particular attention 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 normal 500, 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. Completing the look are, 16” alloys available as standard fitment or 17” alloy wheels available as an optional extra.

The 500 Abarth’s interior offers further clues to its racing pedigree thanks to unique Abarth instrumentation 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 cloth.

An additional welcome benefit is the high level of active and passive safety. The jewel in the 500 Abarth’s crown and a vital weapon in the battle to keep drivers safe is the clever Torque Transfer Control (TTC) system. This is engaged when the TTC button is pressed and mimics a limited slip differential in corners by using the ESP sensors and braking system to transfer the engine’s torque away from the unloaded inner wheel to the loaded outer wheel. The result reins in understeer around corners, making the car safer, yet more fun to drive.

For stable and highly effective braking, the 500 Abarth has disc brakes all round 284mm self-ventilating at the front, 240mm at the rear and the system is supplemented by ABS anti-lock braking. In order for drivers to maximise the power of the brakes, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA) are both standard fitments.

The 500 Abarth comes with very a high level of passive safety equipment. There are seven airbags as standard, two dual-stage front bags, two window bags, two side bags and unusually for this size of car, a driver’s knee bag. For added safety, optional equipment includes Xenon headlights which produce three times as much light as traditional halogen units, giving a beam with greater depth, so making obstacles easier to see in advance.

Would-be customers will be impressed by the wide array of standard features on offer, which include a sporty thick-rimmed flat-bottomed, leather steering wheel, electric front windows and door mirrors, air conditioning, a height adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel and a radio/CD/MP3 player with steering wheel controls. The innovative and unique Blue&Me hands-free communication system is also standard.

The 500 Abarth will also be available in cabriolet form. The 500C Abarth shares the same safety features and impressive standard equipment as its hatch counterpart but boasts an automatically retractable panoramic roof, providing the thrill of wind-in-the-hair motoring in one stylish and well-equipped package. The 1.4-litre 16-valve turbocharged petrol engine produces slightly more power with a maximum power output of 103kW at 5000rpm when fitted with the MTA transmission.

The 500C Abarth also features an optional five-speed Dualogic MTA (Manual Transmission Automated) gearbox. The cutting-edge sequential system processes a complex set of information on the car’s status and the driver’s intentions and automates clutch and gear engagement through electro-hydraulic actuators.

MTA offers two operating modes: semiautomatic (manual) and automatic: with the first function, gear shifts take place sequentially by simply pressing a lever on the tunnel. In manual mode, drivers are free to enjoy an entertaining drive over mixed/fast routes, yet without reducing comfort during low-speed drives. When automatic mode is active, the control unit takes over control of selecting the best ratio for your driving style. Two operating strategies are available: Normal and Economy: the former places the emphasis on driving comfort while the latter ECO setting aims to reduce fuel consumption by shifting gears at the most effective junctures.

MTA also ensures effective integration with the vehicle’s ESP system. The Hill-holder system is engaged automatically whenever the car meets pre-established gradient conditions, rendering a handbrake unnecessary during hill starts (this is a limitation of most automatic transmissions on the market).

The MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension of the hatchback remain, but spring and damper rates have been completely re-tuned to maintain that car’s sporting characteristics yet make the 500C Abarth’s ride even more compliant.

The 500C Abarth features a deeper windscreen than the 500 Abarth to accommodate a re-sized upper cross member needed to maintain torsional rigidity while a more traditional boot lid has replaced the tailgate. The result is a car that has the dynamic characteristics and rigidity of a hatchback, yet is also capable of offering the sun on the face sensation of a soft top.

The roof is electrically operated either by a button next to the interior mirror or the car’s remote control, and can be activated at up to 60km/h. It slides backwards along lateral guides making it an effortless transformation. This also highlights a sophisticated solution to opening the boot. When the soft top is fully lowered and the boot release is activated, the hood is automatically lifted a couple of centimetres to allow the boot to be fully opened. And when the boot is open, the roof can also be closed.

The high-quality double-layered hood doesn’t only give the interior the sophistication of the hatchback when it’s raised, thanks to its glass rear window; it also houses the third brake light in an aerodynamic spoiler. This has been lengthened to improve airflow distribution over the car as well as accentuating the Abarth 500C’s sporty look. This gives the soft top the same class-leading 0.33 drag coefficient as the hatchback.

The exclusive 500 and 500C Abarth will initially be available from the Abarth Performance Centre in Craighall Park with specialised technicians on hand at the dedicated facility.

Pricing and Servicing Abarth South Africa

  • Abarth 500 – R230 000 (incl. VAT and emissions tax)
  • Abarth 500c – R255 000

Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa offers a three-year 100 000 km Warranty (three years on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation) as well as a five-year / 90 000 km service plan as standard on both new models.