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Abarth for Australia

Esseesse: Fiat's firebrand Abarth will be released in Australia.

Piping-hot 500 Esseesse looms as Fiat finally confirms Abarth brand for Australia

14 Feb 2011

FIAT’S cracking little Abarth 500 Esseesse has emerged as a small but significant ray of sunshine for the fledgling Italian brand in Australia.

The hottest version of the European car-maker’s diminutive born-again ‘bambino’ has finally been confirmed for local release in mid-March, when full pricing and specifications for the Abarth-badged 500 will be announced.

The Abarth 500 Esseesse has been available in Europe as an aftermarket package exclusively through Abarth dealerships since 2008, but will become a standard model in the Australian range.

It will be available in Australia via single Abarth dealers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, although Fiat dealers across the nation will be able to provide servicing and parts.

Powered by a 117kW/230Nm version of the regular Abarth 500’s 99kW/206Nm turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, Australia’s first Abarth model will join the 1.4 Sport as the second variant in Australia’s slimmed down 500 range, which no longer comprises base 1.2 Pop, 1.3 JTD diesel or top-shelf Lounge model grades.

While Europe’s Abarth 500C convertible is at least 12 months away from local showrooms, Abarth versions of Fiat’s larger Punto and Ritmo hatchbacks will not be seen here until the standard models are reintroduced with an automatic transmission option, which is currently not available to Australian Fiat distributor Ateco Automotive.

Apart from the Scudo and Ducato commercial vans, the 500 1.4 Sport ($24,990) remains the only Fiat vehicle available in Australia following the discontinuation of the Punto and Ritmo last year, when local dealers sold eight Puntos and just one Ritmo.

60 center imageFiat sold only 1363 vehicles in Australia last year – including 857 versions of the top-selling Ducato and 344 versions of the 500 – representing a 29 per cent decline on 2009 numbers.

The 500 Esseesse is claimed to sprint to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds – not quite as quick as Europe’s 147kW racetrack-only version – on its way to a 211km/h top speed, yet fuel consumption increases only marginally from 6.3L/100km in the standard 74kW/131Nm 500 1.4 Sport, to 6.5L/100km.

It will come standard with 284x22mm cross-drilled and ventilated front brake discs, ventilated 240x11mm rear discs and unique 17x7.0-inch alloy wheels with 205/40 ZR17 Pirelli P-Zero tyres.

There is also a lower ride height, firmer springs, tyre pressure sensors, “esseesse” bonnet and tailgate badging, and a unique key cover.

General manager for Fiat and Abarth in Australia, Andrei Zaitzev, blamed strong demand in Europe for the Abarth 500’s delayed arrival Down Under.

“The Abarth 500 has been a remarkable success in Europe and it has become ‘the’ small car to be seen in right across Europe,” he said.

“We know that this success is about to be duplicated in Australia because we have had people banging on our door wanting to buy an Abarth 500 since it was launched in Europe. This demand will be further compounded by the keen pricing and specification, which will be announced in March.

“Blame the European performance car enthusiasts for the delay in the Abarth 500 arriving in Australia.” In related news this week, Fiat Powertrain has announced it will purchase Penske Corporation’s 50 per cent ownership stake in Italian turbo-diesel engine specialist VM Motori, which will become jointly owned by Fiat and General Motors.

GM bought half of VM Motori, which is based in Cento, Italy and produces a number of diesel engines ranging in displacement between 1.5 and 4.5 litres, in September 2007.

Fiat and GM said both companies would continue to have ongoing commercial relationships with VM, including engineering services and supply of diesel engines such as the manufacturer’s new V6.

VM Motori, which has 12 plants and five research centres, currently supplies diesel engines to GM, Chrysler and London Taxi International.

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