23/09/2013 10:30 | By Tristan Young, contributor, MSN Cars

Fiat plans new high-performance Abarth models

Abarth eyes up expanded range with go-faster 500L and Panda under investigation

Abarth: it's Fiat's high-performance sub-brand (© Abarth)

Abarth, the tuning company owned by Fiat, is looking to grow the number of models it offers including a hot version of the 500L supermini, MSN Cars can reveal.

Speaking exclusively to MSN Cars, Marco Magnanini, the European boss of Abarth, hinted that other models from Fiat could be given the Abarth treatment.

When quizzed about the possibility of an Abarth 500L, he said: “The 500 family will offer us options. We want to take our brand values to other cars. In future it is possible.”

However, Magnanini declined to give details of what would turn a 500L into an Abarth. However, if the 180bhp 1.4-litre turbo engine, used across other Abarth models, were fitted to the 500L (below), it would give Fiat a direct rival to the Mini Countryman Cooper S.

Fiat 500L: next up for the Abarth go-faster treatment (© Fiat)

Currently, Abarth only offers tuning parts for, and dedicated models of, the 500, 500C and Punto.

Could a Fiat Panda Abarth be launched?

Magnanini also hinted that the Panda could also have the Abarth treatment, but denied both the possibility of a dedicated Abarth model and Abarth expanding into Alfa Romeo, despite the two brands having worked together historically.

Alongside individual tuning parts, specific tuning kits and dedicated models, Abarth also runs several race championships.

“Abarth is the performance brand of Fiat,” said Magnanini. “It’s about upgrading, racing and performance. We’re not just a car maker, we start with a standard car and develop performance equipment. We have cars for those that want to go racing, parts for those that want to modify their cars and we have road cars for collectors.

“We also partner with the very best performance parts manufacturers such as Koni and Brembo. Our cars go from 130hp at the entry level up to 180hp and beyond, and we’re present in all markets that Fiat is present. Racing is part of our heritage.”

Racing is a key part of the Abarth proposition (© Abarth)

Abarth currently operates several race series across Europe (including Italy, Benelux, Sweden and a pan-European contest) and operates a driving academy in Italy for both beginners and race drivers to improve their skills.

For the past few years, Abarth has also been running a young driver talent competition. This year, 2013 was the first year the competitions was run in the UK. Under the rules, each country selects a team of four to then compete at a European level and it combines a social media reality show with a search for the best young drivers. The winners will take part in one round from one of the ‘Trofeo’ race series.

How well is the Abarth performance brand doing?

Abarth has been a separate brand, within the Fiat group since 2008, when it sold just 100 Abarth Puntos, and is sold through a dedicated network of 25 dealers (although these dealers also represent Fiat).

The most expensive Abarth is the 695 Tributo Ferrari costing around £38,000

Last year, Abarth released a special edition Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati, which cost £32,000. A total of 499 were built, with 10 already in the UK and a further 12 on the way. However, this wasn’t the most expensive Abarth road car. That honour went to the 695 Tributo Ferrari costing around £38,000.

It is difficult to know exactly how many of these collectors’ specials are in the UK, partly because Abarth remains tightlipped about exactly how many were built, but also because all were first registered in Italy, then exported. While Abarth says that 150, some of which were right-hand drive, came to the UK it is thought some of these were then sold on around the world.

Abarth expects UK sales this year to hit 1,300 - up from 1,292 in 2012.

Abarth’s best year in the UK was in 2010 when it sold 1,425 cars – the best-selling of which was the 500. Abarth hopes to be back at 2010 levels next year. And at this level the UK is the second biggest market in Europe after Italy.

Helping to hit that new target is a limited edition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic Abarth 595 (below). The new car will have a 299-unit production run and even include its own merchandise and accessory line. It, too, is expected to cost around £30,000. Of the 299, 149 are destined for Europe and 50 will come to the UK, so you’d best get your order in quick.

It's the 50th anniversary of the classic Abarth 595 (© Abarth)

On Bing: see more photos of Abarth cars
Read an MSN review of the current Fiat range
Buy a second-hand Abarth hot hatch from £7,000


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