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FIAT's 500 Abarth headed to US

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author photo by Nick Palermo November 2011

With high power-to-weight ratios and nimble reflexes, performance-oriented small cars offer drivers a versatile and economical alternative to big, expensive sports cars. Now FIAT is bringing its souped-up 500 Abarth stateside, giving those with the need for speed a relatively fuel-efficient 4-passenger hatchback suitable not just for track days and autocross competitions, but for the daily commute, too. The race-inspired 500 Abarth makes its American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month.

The Abarth name harks back to legendary tuner Karl Abarth. His work on Italian lightweights like the 500 earned his vehicles the description "small but wicked." This 2012 500 Abarth fits the bill too, with a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder and Abarth-tuned suspension and brakes. Sporty styling upgrades and bigger wheels and tires transform the look, creating a vehicle that appears low and planted to the ground. The cuteness typical of the 500 is gone in the Abarth; the look is decidedly aggressive.

While FIAT has yet to release specifications for the US-bound Abarth, Euro-spec models, available there since 2008, are rated at 133 horsepower in a lighter-tuned version or 170 horsepower on the beefier model. Pricing for the Abarth is also unavailable, but should be comparable to competitors like the Mini Cooper S or the Volkswagen GTI.

The badges on the 2012 500 Abarth are missing the "FIAT" name. Instead, the limited-production models get Abarth emblems, which very appropriately depict a black scorpion on an attention-grabbing yellow and red field. Before you even step inside this hot little hatchback, consider yourself warned. This car might be small, but like the scorpion, its ability outpaces its size.

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Used 2012 FIAT 500 Sport Hatchback
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
FIAT's 500 Abarth headed to US - Autotrader