20 February 2008

Even better than the real thing

Abarth 500 looks cooler than we'd dared imagine

Abarth 500

Take a look at the first-ever photos of the stunning new Abarth 500, the hotted-up, scorpionified version of Fiat's brilliant Cinq.

Snapped in the new Abarth factory in Turin, our shots show the 500 to be even better-looking than we dreamed up when we put together our own, erm, fantasy Abarth in a moment of over-0excitement last year.

Some stats to kick you off. The Abarth 500 gets a revised version of the 1.4-litre turbo engine in the Abarth Grande Punto, putting out 135bhp and an impressive 133lb ft of torque - which powers up to 152lb ft when you press the sports button. Even better, after launch we'll see an 'essesse' kit which will take the 500 up to 180bhp... with brakes to match.

There's no word on performance yet, but expect the Abarth 500 to keep pace with far more powerful rivals on twisty B-roads thanks to a clever traction-control diff called TTC (Torque Transfer Control) which improves the transfer of drive torque to the front wheels.

Transmission comes from a manual five-speed box - the mid-range torque of the turbo engine renders a six-speed box unnecessary - and though the Abarth 500 sits on lowered suspension, the engineers say that its ride will be more compliant than the filling-shaking Fiat Panda 100HP thanks to softer springs.

All good, but the 500 is a car that trades on its looks at much as its road manners. And the Abarth 500 looks, to hark back to the Abarth motto of the 1960s, small but wicked.

The most obvious modification is the fat bodykit, including a deeper front bumper that adds a couple of centimetres to the 500's length and houses a pair of intercoolers. Those wheels in the picture are 17-inchers optional extras, with 16s as standard.

Round the back there's a Clio 197-style rear diffuser and a high-mounted rear spoiler, while scorpion badges adorn just about every surface. Remember that the Abarth 500, like the Abarth Punto - won't be badged as a Fiat, but will instead reside under the Abarth marque.

Fine by us: we just want to drive it. Soon. Now.

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