Geneva 2008: Fiat 500 Abarth punches above its weight

Click above to view high-res gallery of the Fiat 500 Abarth

Nestled between designer-edition Bugattis, drop-dead drop-top Alfas and suped-up Maseratis, it'd have been all too easy to miss something as small as the new 500 Abarth. But that would've been a big mistake, because the scorpion-emblazoned, hot little retro number is one of the most compelling sports models on display at this year's Geneva show.

This version packs a 135hp turbo four – not exactly Veyron-beating power, but promises to be plenty to shoot the turbocharged mini-fridge around every corner in Rome like a carnival ride. Plus the Fiat performance division from its new factory in Turin is working up a 160hp kit that also kicks the visuals up a notch, but as you can see in the gallery below, the scorpion's venom is already thoroughly laced with grappa. Press release after the jump.

View 12 Photos


Abarth at the 78th Geneva International Motor Show

Exactly one year after the rebirth of the brand and the company, Abarth returns to the Geneva Motor Show, an ideal setting for the public launch of the new 500 Abarth, the long awaited car that combines the enjoyment of extremely sporty driving with the best technology at the service of safety and engineering.

The Swiss show is also an ideal shop-window for the latest novelties from the Abarth world, starting with the 2008 racing season. The Abarth Racing Team will tackle the 2008 season with the same guts and determination that brought it its brilliant results in last year's rally season, starting with the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which will be contested by two official Grande Punto Abarth S2000s, driven by Giandomenico Basso and Anton Alen, sponsored by Selenia and Sabelt. And the Grande Punto Abarth S2000 will also compete in the Italian Rally Championship, sponsored by Metis and Api-IP, with two cars driven by Andrea Navarra and Renato Travaglia. Finally, Umberto Scandola is a pilot from the Abarth Team that will carry out development tests as well as several prestigious international competions.

The brand has also chosen the Swiss show to present its new network of exclusive dealers on this market, the first to be inaugurated in Europe after Italy. An exclusive network also requires a unique manufacturing structure, and the Scorpion has recently inaugurated its new premises within the Mirafiori complex in Turin, drawing the company's manufacturing, design and management activities together in one place. Finally, in line with the Abarth philosophy, the 'Abarth Driving School – Sandro Munari' has also been inaugurated, a driving school proper which will teach young drivers the best techniques for maximum safety, under the supervision of the most famous Italian rally driver of all time, Sandro Munari.

So Abarth has several novelties to present, but the undisputed star of the stand is the 500 Abarth, the car that is destined to revive the glory days of the well-known saying 'small but wicked' that was coined for Carlo Abarth's cars. And this concept and the important racing and marketing past of the car's forebear, the 595 Abarth, have inspired an original and very striking stand. It focuses on the Scorpion philosophy and on the qualities that have always distinguished it, making it unique and popular all over the world: guts, speed and an innate predisposition for winning. The graphic motif of the red and white chequers, so characteristic of Abarth, becomes the starting point for the construction of three-dimensional physical volumes, red and white cubes that define the entire stand and the decorative elements on it.

The stand 'opens up' like an imaginary road that starts from an amazing past to the present and the future – with the 500 Abarth – under the Scorpion symbol, which is evident in the foreground, representing simply the unique, unequivocal central element.

The idea for the striking stage set is inspired directly by the concepts of a number of contemporary artists like Cornelia Parker, Dan Tobin Smith and Damian Ortega. Each, in his own way and through his own works, wants 'to suspend in mid-air, for just an instant, elements of daily life that can tell a story, to stop for a moment the frenzy that envelops us in order to observe what is around us every day, which we are often unable to see'.

The progress of the brand new 500 Abarth has been 'blocked' on this road for an instant, literally 'exploding' the chequered wall of the stand. The large screen on the rear wall projects films from the past of the long history of the Fiat 500 Abarth, in a succession of victories, world titles and great records, but also plenty of entertainment and passion. Halfway between the past and the present, the 500 Abarth is introduced to the general public, surrounded by the red and white cubes of the chequered flag, which have also exploded under the impact of its breathtaking entrance. The 500 Abarth stops, immobile but nonetheless dynamic, at the centre of a diagonal raised area that extends the full length of the stand. On the side of the platform that is inclined towards the public, a large Scorpion is etched in steel that underlines the fact that the car is the product of a brand that is both historical and contemporary.

The setting is completed with distinctive colours and symbols that are absolutely Abarth, identifying the character of the brand: red, the great passion for engines, the red and white chequers used to indicate the finishing line in 'endurance' races (the competitions where Abarth achieved its best results), the red and yellow shield with black scorpion which identifies the stinging birth sign of the engineering genius. And the beautiful polished white floor enhances the dynamism of these elements while the materials and finish tend almost to disappear, drawing the attention to the car and the technology that surrounds the 500 Abarth – the real star of the stand.

A small, powerful car, that can be used in our 'everyday performances' on the road, or in races, exuding guts and competitiveness. 'Everyday performance' is the basic concept of this presentation, the possibility of using a car that embodies a fast, exciting lifestyle, just as the daily life of someone who 'is' Abarth through and through must be fast and challenging. In other words, outstanding everyday performance from a small car that is modern and technological, the natural evolution of a car that was a legend, whose character it has inherited.

The intermingling of historical and contemporary elements conveys the extent to which history, tradition, technology and outstanding performance are part of the brand's genes.

Finally, the advanced technology on the stand – the same technology that comes to life in the 500 Abarth – offers visitors interactive elements such as: the 'multi-touch' table, that takes them on a surprising guided tour of the Abarth world, and the photographic quality multimedia 'product configurator' which lets visitors view different versions of the Abarth cars using a touch-screen system, so that they seem to be able to touch actual elements employed in engine tuning. And to respect tradition, photographs of the conversion and tuning kits developed by Abarth decorate the stand walls. The unmistakable logo hangs high up, yellow and red, within a shield sporting the black Scorpion, with a new look that respects tradition.

Share This Photo X