Making its first official public appearance in U.S. trim, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth brings a new sense of intensity to this feisty minicompact three-door hatchback. While minor details differ from its existing Euro-spec sibling, our version maintains all of the serious high-performance bits that one would associate with a vehicle carrying the legendary Abarth name.

At the competitive heart of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is a 1.4-liter turbocharged/intercooled version of Fiat's ultra-efficient MultiAir four-cylinder engine, tuned to make a stout 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. All of that heads to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission.

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To help put that extra power to best use, the Fiat 500 Abarth is fitted with a full sport-tuned suspension system that includes model-specific spring/shock/stabilizer-bar calibrations and also nets KONI Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) up front. Added a bit more precision in the directional control department the 500 Abarth's electric-assist power steering gets tweaked with a custom Sport mode while stopping capabilities are enhanced with bigger, four-wheel antilock disc brakes that boast semi-metallic pads for greater fade resistance and bright-red calipers, just because they look cool. The Fiat 500 Abarth rides on 195/45 Pirelli Cinturato P7 all-season tires wrapped around Abarth-designed 16-inch cast-aluminum alloy wheels, but hard-core enthusiasts can opt for 205/40 Pirelli P-Zero Nero performance tires on 17-inch forged-alloy rims.  

Available in Rosso (red), Grigio (gray), Bianco (white) or Nero (black), the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth is visually distinguished from its lesser Fiat 500 cousins by a subtle but effective body kit. It starts with a revised front fascia that's longer and more aggressively contoured with larger air intakes to improve flow to the engine's twin intercoolers. Abarth-designed side sills add more character to the car's profile while a large liftgate spoiler extends the roofline for better aero. Also on hand is a revised rear fascia that includes a new diffuser as well as dual double-tip chrome exhaust outlets and a selection of Abarth badges.

The performance theme is equally apparent in the Fiat 500 Abarth's cabin, which is highlighted by deeply contoured single-piece Abarth performance front bucket seats, a flat-bottomed sport steering wheel, a concentric-design instrument cluster with a 160-mph speedometer and a unique turbo-boost gauge with LED upshift indicator. Other Abarth touches include a Nero leather-clad dash, aluminum sport pedals, and more deeply bolstered backs on the 50/50 folding rear seats.

Although pricing and final EPA numbers have yet to be released, the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth will go on sale in March 2012.

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