Car reviews - Abarth - 500 - SS 5dr hatch
9 Mar 2011
FIAT’S red-hot performance brand, Abarth, has struck in Australia with the arrival of a special Fiat 500 with 46 per cent more power than the standard fare.
Sporting a black scorpion logo, the Abarth division has been building Fiats with extra bite, including race cars, for more than 60 years. Australian Fiat importer, Ateco Automotive, has decided to skip the base Abarth 500 and go straight to the even more exclusive Abarth Esseesse, in line with customer requests.
Meaning SS in Italian, the Esseesse will come in just one specification, at $34,990.
In other markets, the Esseesse performance parts are added as aftermarket accessories, but Ateco has ordered the upgraded vehicles straight from Italy.
The Esseesse runs a 1.4-litre 16-valve turbo-charged four-cylinder from the Fire engine family packing 118kW of power – 34kW more than the current most powerful Fiat 500 available in Australia.
In the regular Abarth application, this powerplant generates a handy 99kW and 201Nm, but the Esseesse has some computer modifications and a special air cleaner to generate some extra urge.
The Esseesse achieves maximum power at 5500rpm. Peak torque is 201Nm in standard operation, but that can been pushed up by 29Nm in Sport mode.
These solid figures sound even more impressive when it is taken into account that the 500 weighs just 1035kg.
This means the Esseesse is able to blast from 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds. On a track, it would be able to reach 211km/h.
The fuel consumption remains relatively low, with an official figure of 6.5 litres per 100km and an emissions rating of 155grams of carbon-dioxide per kilometre.
The regular Fiat 500 makes do with 74kW and takes 10.5 seconds to make it to 100km/h and max out at 182km/h.
The only transmission option for the Abarth Esseesse is a five-speed manual gearbox, which drives the front wheels. Fiat has fitted the hot 500 with an electronic system that mimics a limited slip differential to moderates power across the front axle in an attempt to prevent torque steer. This is a similar system to that found in the Mini Cooper S.
Fiat has upgraded the 500’s brake package to match the extra power, with drilled and larger ventilated discs (284mm at the front and 240mm at the rear) being gripped by upgraded pads in bright red callipers.
The Esseesse maintains the same suspension architecture as its siblings, with MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam rear, but the tuning has been altered. Firmer springs are fitted front and rear, as well as special dampers for sportier handling characteristics.
The 16-inch wheels have been replaced with 17-inch rims with a red hub centre wrapped with sticky Pirelli P-Zero or Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres (depending on the production batch).
All Esseesse models come with an Abarth stripe with matching coloured mirrors (red in the case of white models) to help them stand out from regular 500 models.
The body kit includes a hatch-mounted rear spoiler and front and rear bumper extensions. A large Abarth badge also gives a clue this is not a normal 500.
Changes to the interior include a chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather-wrapped gear knob, sports seats and metal-look pedal covers.
The dashboard features a turbo boost gauge and a gear-shift indicator that flashes to let the driver know when to change gears for the best fuel economy and to avoid hitting the engine cut-out when in Sport mode.
The special 500 comes loaded with a full suite of safety gear, including seven airbags, electronic stability control as well as a hill-hold function to help make taking off on steep gradients far easier.
Standard gear crammed into the Abarth Esseesse includes climate control air-conditioning, electric windows, a premium sound system, Bluetooth phone connectivity and tinted windows.
The Abarth brand was developed by Austrian Karl Abarth, who later took the name Carlo after adopting Italian nationality. The independent enthusiast started tuning Fiats in the 1950s, developed a high-performance version of the original 500 in 1957.
Abarth prepared several race and rally cars with a string of successes including victory in the World Rally Championship of 1980, a year after Carlo Abarth died.
Abarth was bought by Fiat in 1971. It is now operates in 17 countries and its cars are available through 180 showrooms globally.
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