In 1909, Italian-Australian Carlo Abarth founded Abarth, a racing-car manufacturer, in Turin, Italy. In 1952, he began his well-known association with Fiat, building the Abarth 1500 Biposto upon Fiat mechanicals. In the 1960s, Abarth cars achieved great success in hill climbs and sports-car racing. Later, the company added high-performance exhaust pipes and tuning kits for road vehicles, including Fiats. Abarth was also associated in producing sports or racing cars with Porsche and Simca. In 1971, Abarth was sold and became the racing department for Fiat. The most famous Abarth car was the Autobianchi A112 Abarth, which proved very popular on the rally racing circuits. Abarth also prepared the Fiat Group's rally cars, including the Fiat 124 Abarth and the 131 TC. In 2007, Fiat re-launched the brand with the Grande Punto Abarth and the Grande Punto Abarth S2000. The same year, the company introduced a new version of the Fiat 500: the Fiat Nuova 500. The Abarth 500 SS is the performance model of the Fiat 500.
2010 Abarth 500 esseesse - Photo by TEHCRAZEHCATMAN
Equal parts cute Italian runabout and hard-charging smile generator, the Fiat Abarth 500 esseesse packs a lot of charisma into such a small package. However, one peek at the twin tailpipes peeking out from beneath the rear valance, or the athletic hatch-mounted spoiler, will tell you that this diminutive Italian is pumped up with go-fast bits. The 1.4-liter four makes enough turbocharged ponies to sling the Abarth from apex to apex without breaking a sweat. Not that the handling’s been ignored; technical courses like the TopGear test track will demonstrate the Abarth’s remarkable sure-footedness, derived from a lower ride height and cockpit-adjustable sport suspension. As balanced (and fun) as the Abarth 500 is right out of the box, Fiat is a blank slate and the Upgrade Shop begs the question: can you build a better hot hatch?
2013 Abarth Punto Supersport - Photo by ForzaMad17
Italian culture is full of passion and no two areas is that passion better expressed than food and automobiles. Italian noodles become “pasta primavera,” and an unassuming, economical city car becomes a hot hatch. Fiat’s performance division Abarth did its thing with the Punto Supersport and the result is all that and a side of marinara. Marking a return to the performance-driven Fiat subcompacts of the past, like the 127 Sport and the Uno Turbo, the Punto Supersport is all about looking the role and then backing it up with an exhilarating ride. Exterior styling that screams, “I go fast,” meets a Garret-turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes the Punto SS do exactly that: go fast. Among hot hatches, the Punto SS will match up favorably against anything with three-doors out of Europe or America.