2012 FIAT 500 Abarth

When the 2012 FIAT 500 went on sale in 2011, car reviewers thought the 500 was pretty fun to drive for a small car, but agreed that it couldn’t match the Mini Cooper’s agility and power. Those opinions could change when the 2012 FIAT 500 Abarth goes on sale this year.

Compared with the base FIAT 500, which has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 101 horsepower, the Abarth edition takes things up a notch with its 160-horsepower, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Outside, the Abarth trim distinguishes itself with Abarth badges and special front and rear grilles.

The Abarth logo is a scorpion.

“The FIAT 500 Abarth feels like a double shot of espresso straight to your veins,” Tim Kuniskis, head of FIAT brand for North America, Chrysler Group LLC, says in a press release. “With its wicked attitude, it will reward adrenaline fans who no longer need to pay six figures to feel the rush of true Italian performance.”

While the FIAT 500 Abarth certainly makes a lot of horsepower for a subcompact car, on paper, it’s still less powerful than higher trims of the Mini Cooper. The $23,800 2012 Mini Cooper S generates 180 horsepower, and the $30,600 2012 John Cooper Works makes 208.

Few automotive journalists have tested the 500 Abarth. Motor Trend did, and concluded that, “While the Abarth was unquestionably more capable, we can't wholeheartedly say it was more fun to throw into a turn.”

In its press release, FIAT doesn’t specify when the Abarth will go on sale, but Inside Line says it should be available in late March. The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth starts at $22,000 before destination fees.

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