Abarth 500C, Punto and Hamann: Small, Hot Cars to Die For

February 26th, 2010

Fiat Abarth 500CSpeed tuning in Europe is going at a fairly furious pace, and one of the oldest and best names in the game, Abarth, is still at it. When I had Fiats as a qualifiedly young-ish man (back in the 1970s—yes, I know how “bad” Fiats were), I bought Abarth exhaust systems, suspension parts, and so forth as the cheapest and best way to bolt on Italian performance. And Carlo Abarth was king of the tuners.

His company is now making big noises, along with Fiat itself, about the Abarth 500C to be shown at Geneva. The car gets a 140-hp turbo, an Abarth-modified six-speed, hot-shoe paint and big wheels, a better suspension and, Happy New Year!, an average 36 mpg fuel economy. These are more than cute boy/girl racer cars; they are designed to wring the last bit of performance out of what is basically a small economy model.

That has been the Abarth philosophy forever. Now they have also added the Punto EVO (right), a bit bigger and hotter car, to the lineup. The Fiat engine is a 1.4 zapped to give 165 hp and move you to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds. Besides the new EVO mods, there is also an SS version with still more mods, 18-inch wheels, and 180 hp. Who cares what they will cost? I want one.

And then there’s Hamann, the German tuner that will show its idea of the Abarth 500 at Geneva as well. This one starts with a completely rebuilt engine to provide 210 lb-ft of torque.

I think there’s something really entrepreneurial, crazy, and inventive about this kind of speed tuning. Companies like Abarth aren’t anything like the Saleens and the Roush guys (not to put them down); their whole aim is to get the most from the least.

Can you imagine buying/owning an Abarth 500C? Why or why not?

—jgoods

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  1. | #1

    I agree that these mini racers are cute but after being modified for extra performance they are not cost effective compared to a larger engined sedan. Modified vehicles attract a greater insurance premium and 0-62mph times of 7 to 8 seconds are generally slower than 6 cyclinder family sedans. Long term reliability of a small engine that has been through the wringer may negate the initial fuel cost savings.

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