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Don't Call it Cute - the Fiat 500 Abarth Version Adds Substance

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author photo by Autotrader February 2011

What do the New Beetle, Mini Cooper, and Mazda Miata have in common? They were all “cute” – and Fiat is determined not to let its new 500 hatchback follow in their footsteps. To Fiat, cute is bad, with the mere mention of the word scaring most men away – and alienating half of car shoppers in the process.

Enter the Fiat 500 Abarth, a high-performance version of the newly-launched hatchback. Fiat hopes that by promoting the sporty Abarth model, the 500 many escape the “cute” stereotype that has attached itself to so many other similar cars, keeping its sales volumes high – and its audience wide.

Featuring just under 140 horsepower, the 500 Abarth may not sound like a rocket ship on paper – but in a car the size of the diminutive Fiat 500, a little power goes a long way. European magazines have achieved 0-to-60mph runs in around 7.5 seconds, a second quicker than a like-priced Mini Cooper, which puts out just 121 horsepower.

Originally an Italian race car manufacturer, Abarth soon grew into making performance parts for Fiats. The company, named for its founder Carlo Abarth, was purchased by Fiat in 1971 and became the Italian automaker’s racing division. The Abarth name dwindled with Fiat’s racing participation, but has been resurrected for Fiat’s new 500 along with its scorpion logo, purportedly Carlo Abarth’s astrological sign.

It remains to be seen whether the Abarth-badged 500 can convince customers that the new hatchback is more than just “cute.” Volkswagen’s high-performance New Beetle Turbo S did little to convince buyers of the car’s sporting character, and despite the Mazda Miata’s fantastic drivability and handling, the sporty roadster has been pigeonholed as “cute” almost since its inception. In many consumers’ eyes, the Mini, too, is more “cute” than anything else, despite its driving prowess.

Nonetheless, car enthusiasts should applaud Fiat for trying – because cute or not, the 500 Abarth will add an exciting, fun choice to automotive shopping lists.

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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.
Don't Call it Cute - the Fiat 500 Abarth Version Adds Substance - Autotrader