First Look: 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth
By John Beltz Snyder
November 16, 2011
“Bringing the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth to the U.S. enables us to reach out to driving enthusiasts who want Italian performance at an attainable price,” said Olivier Francois, Head of FIAT Brand and Chief Marketing Officer — Chrysler Group LLC. “With its lightweight, track-tuned handling and purpose-built design, the Fiat 500 Abarth brings to life the legendary racing heritage of the brand and becomes the Italian high-performance car for everyday driving.”
Building on the excitement of the new 2012 Fiat 500 (Cinquecento), the new Fiat 500 Abarth is designed for track-day enthusiasts and driving purists who want the ultimate high-performance small car with the pedigree of an exclusive Italian exotic.
With its all-new 1.4-liter MultiAir® Turbo engine, Abarth-tuned suspension and brake systems, race-inspired design, and technology features not traditionally included on a small car, the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth unleashes the brand’s legendary performance heritage to American streets.
“Abarth treatment” and tradition continues to deliver extraordinary results
In the late 1950s Karl Abarth believed that race cars with brilliant performance could be derived from small, lightweight, everyday driving cars — including the original Cinquecento (500). And his tradition of track-ready small cars continues today by utilizing the 2012 Fiat 500 Sport as a base point for the new high-performance Fiat 500 Abarth.
Staying faithful to the performance principles that made the Abarth name a success, the new Fiat 500 Abarth continues the brand’s motorsport traditions, including:
- Everyday Performance Car
- Track-ready capability, high horsepower-per-liter engine, combined with the quality, efficiency and refinement expected in a world-class small car
- Benchmark levels of performance, track-proven reliability and durability
- Purposeful and functional performance design, Abarth-tuned powertrain control module (PCM) and performance-tuned exhaust with menacing sound
- State-of-the-art powertrain and chassis technology once limited to premium-priced performance cars
- Racing Heritage
- More than 60 years of performance and competition tuning, including active international series races today
- New 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth builds on the Abarth brand’s tradition of exterior and interior design enhancements added only for performance gain
- Its aggressive exterior is specifically designed for aerodynamic efficiency, improved down force and maximum system cooling
- No-nonsense enthusiast’s cockpit provides all that is required for performance driving, as well as everyday driving comfort and convenience
- Iconic Abarth shields pay homage to the brand’s racing heritage
“From the outside, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is designed with the essence of a pure-Italian performance car – functional, purposeful and high-emotion exterior design enhancements, all stylistically blended to improve aerodynamics, engine cooling and road-holding grip,” said Roberto Giolito, Head of FIAT and Abarth Style. “Inside, we surrounded the driver with a sporty and technical-styled ‘cockpit,’ encapsulated with the performance equipment and exclusive details to make the 500 Abarth a world-class performance machine.”
Aggressive, functional styling
The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth takes the city-friendly proportions and iconic Cinquecento cues of the new Fiat 500 hatchback model further, with a stylistic approach to exterior aerodynamics and high-performance functionality.
To improve aerodynamics — while creating the necessary engine compartment space for the all-new 1.4-liter MultiAir® Turbo engine — the Fiat 500 Abarth’s front fascia is more pronounced and pushed 2.7 inches (69 mm) ahead of its signature “whiskers and logo” face, recalling the Abarth stylistic treatments from vintage 850 TC and 1000 TC models.
Continuing the Fiat 500 Abarth’s unique front aerodynamic design treatment, the signature “Abarth” shield floats on a finned surface that serves as an additional air intake. Below, the “triptych” of air intakes consists of three inlets with broader openings than the Fiat 500. For a more aggressive look, a blacked-out fascia accent integrates projector-beam fog lamps and helps direct air for engine cooling. Twin “nostrils” are precisely positioned on the front fascia to maximize airflow in and out of the two engine intercoolers (both intercoolers are visible through the “nostril” inlets).
More aggressive Abarth-designed side skirts provide a vertical and athletic profile, while highlighting the iconic curves of the Fiat 500 Abarth. Abarth-designed 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels, or optional 17-inch lightweight forged-aluminum wheels, fill the flared wheel arches and provide ventilation for the performance brake system. In addition, both wheel designs allow visibility of the lacquered Rosso (red) brake calipers.
From the rear, a large liftgate-mounted spoiler extends the roofline of the Fiat 500 Abarth and improves the vehicle’s aerodynamic behavior by creating additional down force. Below, the two-piece Abarth-styled rear fascia accentuates the road-holding stance of this high-performance 500 and optimizes airflow output with its black-accented rear diffuser. In addition, symmetric, twin exhaust cutouts deliver a powerful look, while large concentric “double tip” exhausts provide a tuned sound and Abarth-exclusive look.
Bold exterior elements
Paying homage to the brand’s racing heritage and vintage Cinquecento-based 595 and 695 Abarth models, iconic Abarth shields are once again positioned on both driver and passenger rear-quarter panels and feature a “shot through” Rosso-Bianco-Verde (red-white-green) tri-color arrow.
For even more Abarth style, optional bodyside exterior decals pay homage to the historic models and provide the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth with a track-ready look. Available in Rosso, Nero and Bianco, the signature Abarth triple-stripe logo runs horizontally along the lower bodyside and dissipates into a gradient rearward. Rosso, Nero or Bianco exterior mirror caps also are included to match the stripe.
For maximum customization, the Abarth-designed 17-inch forged-aluminum wheels are available in Hyper Black or optional Bianco paint.
Expanding on the no-nonsense design and high attention to detail found on the 2012 Fiat 500, the new Fiat 500 Abarth features a performance-designed cockpit with unique appointments.
The interior design theme of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is an artistic blend of clean lines and functional performance appointments. An Abarth-designed steering wheel features a thick rim, perforated leather and flat bottom to provide the look, feel and increased roominess desired during at-the-limit driving. For easier operation, and to keep the driver’s eyes on the road ahead, the Fiat 500 Abarth’s steering wheel includes cruise, audio and BLUE&ME™ Handsfree Communication technology controls.
Behind the steering wheel, the Fiat 500 Abarth features a large concentric instrument cluster with 160-mph speedometer, tachometer and trip computer. For a touch of sophistication, the instrument-panel cluster brow is wrapped in Nero leather with Rosso accent stitching.
Unique to the Fiat 500 Abarth is the addition of an analog turbo-boost gauge with integrated LED shift light in the center that illuminates to optimize gear changes.
Integrating the latest in portable vehicle navigation on top of the instrument panel, the available TomTom® navigation with BLUE&ME™ Handsfree Communication technology features a 4.3-inch touchscreen display.
Below the instrument panel, Abarth-designed aluminum pedal covers feature Nero rubber trim for a decidedly racing look, while the Nero leather shift knob with Rosso accent stitching provides a precise feel of the shifter.
Unique Abarth-styled front performance seats feature a one-piece design with large side bolsters, racing-harness pass through, accent stitching around the perimeter and integrated side-thorax air bags. The Fiat 500 Abarth’s rear seat is designed to be comfortable for two adults and delivers the high-quality, comfort and craftsmanship executed on the front seats. To highlight that this hatchback is roomy, the rear passengers’ upper seatbacks are raised and bolstered for added back support.
For a contemporary and technical look, the Fiat 500 Abarth features the center stack, radio and climate control system, as well as the headliner and pillars finished in Nero, while the four-passenger seating is available in Nero (cloth or leather) or Rosso/Nero (leather) color combinations.
Intelligently designed cabin provides maximum interior space
Thanks to careful analysis of the interior space, designers of the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth made an amazingly roomy and capable cabin within its city-friendly size. With built-in storage spaces, including two in the instrument panel, map pockets in the door panels and another below the center console’s shifter bezel, this high-performance Cinquecento can quickly and conveniently store mobile devices and travel gear. In addition, the luggage compartment is spacious, providing a maximum of 26.8 cubic feet for gear with the rear seats folded.
- New 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth features performance hardware and tuning for world-class ride and handling
- Abarth-tuned chassis with Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) front shock absorbers automatically provide the dampening needed for the track or uneven roadways
- Lowered ride height, beefier rear suspension, larger brakes and wider tires deliver added driver confidence
- 500 Abarth engineers tested the new 2012 model for more than 2 million miles
- Development vehicles raced “round-the-clock” in 24-hour endurance challenges to prove durability
“The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is more than the addition of power and world-class technology, it’s designed, developed and tuned to deliver the responsiveness, control and precision a performance driver wants and expects,” said Joe Grace, Vehicle Line Executive, Fiat 500 Abarth. “And for our owners who plan on testing the car’s high-performance capabilities and limits, we have continued to develop from the proven European models to ensure the new 500 Abarth endures on the track.”
Like the European-spec 500 Abarth derived from the standard Cinquecento, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth builds off the North American adapted Fiat 500 Sport – and adds the legendary performance and handling capabilities that have made Abarth models an international success both on and off the track.
Track ready, precision-tuned chassis
The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth features an enhanced front- and rear-suspension design to deliver the precision handling, steering and refinement needed for high-performance driving.
Compared with the front-suspension design of the Fiat 500 Sport model, the new 500 Abarth features a unique MacPherson suspension design with a 40 percent stiffer spring rate and 0.6-inch (15 mm) lower ride height for improved handling and minimal body roll. Abarth-designed cast iron front-lower control arms provide improved lateral stiffness, while an increase in negative camber to -1.5 degrees delivers improved grip and steering precision.
New dual-valve Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) KONI® front-shock absorbers replace standard twin-tube units and deliver an innovative two-in-one solution. This patented technology provides the road-holding and handling characteristics needed for maximum grip and performance. In addition, the FSD system actively filters out high-frequency suspension inputs from uneven road surfaces and adjusts for improved comfort and smoothness.
The beefier rear-suspension design of the Fiat 500 Abarth takes the Fiat 500 Sport model’s (already 300 percent stiffer than the European Fiat 500) twist-beam design further, with a reinforced rear axle with strengthened coil-spring supports for greater durability. A new Abarth-specific rear-stabilizer bar increases cornering grip. For improved handling, minimal body roll and ride-height control (when fully loaded), the new Fiat 500 Abarth features 20 percent stiffer rear springs with 0.6-inch (15 mm) lower ride.
The new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth features a 15.1:1 (up from 16.3:1) steering-gear ratio for 10 percent quicker steering to enhance responsiveness, maneuverability and high-performance feel. Compared to the Fiat 500 Sport, the 500 Abarth features a uniquely tuned electronic power steering (EPS) calibration for increased steering response and feedback.
Track-proven brake system
The Fiat 500 Abarth features a high-performance brake system with an Abarth-tuned electronic stability control (ESC) system designed for at-the-limit driving.
At the front, the Fiat 500 Abarth features 2.1-inch (54 mm) diameter single-piston front-brake calipers with semi-metallic brake linings for greater stopping power. Larger 11.1-inch (282 mm) (up from 10.1-inch; 257 mm) diameter ventilated rotors provide additional surface-heat dissipation. The 9.4-inch (240 mm) rear disc-brake system features single-piston brake calipers with semi-metallic brake linings to mitigate brake fade at higher temperatures. Both front- and rear-brake calipers are lacquered in Rosso paint for an athletic look.
An Abarth-tuned ESC system features a three-mode calibration to maximize the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth’s handling capabilities on and off the track. When ESC is selected from “On” to “Partial Off” or “Full Off” on the instrument panel, the 500 Abarth’s innovative Torque Transfer Control (TTC) system maximizes throttle performance during on-throttle cornering.
Lightweight wheels with high-performance tires
Standard on the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, 16 x 6.5-inch cast-aluminum wheels feature a race-inspired design and are fitted with 195/45 R16 Pirelli® Cinturato P7 tires that deliver all-season traction and low-noise characteristics. These tires are inflated with a higher tire pressure to optimize the 500 Abarth’s suspension tuning.
For even more performance, larger and wider 17 x 7-inch wheels are available on the Fiat 500 Abarth. With forged-aluminum construction, these race-inspired wheels keep this Cinquecento lightweight at each corner (18.9 lbs. compared to the standard 16-inch wheels at 18.3 lbs.), while delivering strength and track-tested durability. When equipped with these larger wheels, high-performance three-season Pirelli P-Zero Nero tires feature a 205/40 R17 sizing for a wider stance and a reduced profile for improved handling.
Putting the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth to the test
Public road and race track reliability and durability testing, initially done by FIAT prior to the Fiat 500 Abarth’s European launch, was conducted again in North America to validate the recent engineering changes, as well as to collect feedback from American drivers.
In addition to the 4 million development miles (6.4 million kilometers) of the North American Fiat 500, plus the quality-proven engineering of the European 500 Abarth, the new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth added more than 2 million additional miles (3.2 million kilometers) during its reliability and durability evaluations at the Chrysler Group’s scientific labs, proving grounds, race tracks and on public roads in various climates.
The fleet of early production Fiat 500 Abarth vehicles was tested day and night on various public road surfaces in different North American climates to identify any potential reliability issues. Chrysler Group’s trained drivers also scrutinize functional aspects of each vehicle, such as heating and ventilation systems, storage compartments and window operation. The development team reviews the test results each day and makes any necessary adjustments to ensure the quality of customer vehicles.
Taking a page out of Chrysler Group’s SRT® brand’s durability test manual, engineers subjected Fiat 500 Abarth prototypes to 24-hour endurance events on the harsh surfaces of the Nelson Ledges Road Course in eastern Ohio. Even with a high-end performance car, many race drivers consider it a feat to finish a 24-hour endurance race without brake system, engine or suspension failures. The Abarth prototypes not only survived the challenge, but delivered dependable performance as they clocked consistent lap times from start to finish.