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Losing A Pedal Doesn't Mean Sacrificing Thrills

Is a car with an automatic less fun the same car with a manual gearbox? Well, not if the vehicle in question is a Fiat 500C Abarth and its six-speed auto.

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The Italian automotive industry is filled with legendary names: Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Lamborghini, De Tomaso, Pagani... but the names Fiat, Abarth and Zagato belong up there right beside them – especially when they came together on a vehicle as singular as this one.

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Google Street View has emerged as a great tool for checking out locations along your driving route, and even scoping out places you don't have a chance to go yourself. And that includes some great automotive installations. The online tool has taken us inside museums, race tracks and factories around the world, but while it has not to date allowed us virtual access to a European automotive factory, Fiat is out to correct that wrong by letting the Street View team inside Officine Abarth.

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Fiat may treat Abarth as a trim level on the 500 in the United States, but overseas it's a bona fide performance brand. The thing is that, since the demise of the Punto Abarth (and with performance versions of the Panda and 500L ruled out), the Scorpion marque has been reduced to tuning only versions of the standard Cinquecento. But that could be about to change.

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Two-Pedal Model Gets Less Horsepower But More Torque

There aren't many manual-transmission-only offerings on the US market, and now there's one fewer. The 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth has just gone into production with a newly available automatic option.

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The Fiat 500 is supposed to be a budget model – something you can pick up with less than twenty grand to your name. But once Abarth gets its hands on it, all bets are off. The Scorpion brand is charged with getting the most performance it can out of budget-oriented vehicles like the Cinquecento and Punto, and that's just what it's done with the new 695 Biposto.

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Abarth has made a lot out of very little. Its entire lineup is based on the 500 and (in markets other than ours) the Punto. But that isn't about to change anytime soon.

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As far as product portfolios go, Abarth is about as small as they come. The performance arm of Fiat, Abarth bases its entire line on two models: the 500 and the Punto. And even within that, only the 500 is offered Stateside. But that could change.

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While this writer knows Zender as the maker of (mostly) fine body kits for German marques such as Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the company has also been known to make kits for Italian autos. Its latest product, for example, has been applied to the Fiat 500 Abarth, resulting in what it calls the Abarth 500 Corsa Stradale Concept. We're not quite sure how we managed to miss it at the Frankfurt Motor Show, with its bulging fender flares, new front and rear fascias and side skirts, exhaust pip

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Props must be paid to the people at Abarth, who could've celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 595 – the model that put this performance brand on the map back in the 1960s – with a special edition appearance package and called it a day. But no, that's not how Abarth does things. Instead, it is producing 299 units of this 595 50th Anniversary Edition model that debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show this week, and it's received much more than a new suit for its big 5-0 celebration.

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Abarth presented its original 595 at the Turin Motor Show in 1963. It was the car that put the Scorpion marque on the map and propelled the original Fiat 500 into hot hatch territory. And to mark that occasion, Fiat's performance brand is launching the special edition you see here.

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