Fiat-owned Abarth brand plans bespoke sports car; mid-engined, rear-drive layout; similar to Elise
Richard Bremner Autocar
29 October 2010

Abarth is set to complete its revival as a stand-alone brand within the Fiat Group by launching a sports roadster in 2012 — and it won’t need to buy in a chassis from Lotus or KTM to bring the car to market.

The new model is the latest step in an Abarth revival programme begun three years ago with the Punto Abarth, and continued with the arrival of an Abarth 500 plus a comprehensive range of ‘Esseesse’ performance upgrades for small Fiat models.

The planned roadster’s shape will be all-new. Its proportions and transverse, mid-engined layout will be roughly similar to that of the Lotus Elise. Its cockpit is also believed to use the same layout as the Elise: a fixed rear window with a simple, lift-out roof panel.

However, speculation on the internet that the car will use the Lotus’s chassis, or even the ultra-expensive platform from the KTM X-Bow, are “wide of the mark”, according to Italian sources close to the project.

The styling will come from Abarth’s own in-house department, led by the recently appointed head of design at the firm, Rubén Wainberg. The move is intended to recall Abarth’s 1960s heyday, when a series of specially designed Abarth sports cars were built and raced, using mostly Fiat components.

Abarth is working on its own tubular spaceframe for the car, which will follow tradition by making good use of proven Fiat/Alfa modular suspension components, as well as advanced and lightweight engines such as the recently launched turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir, available with outputs as high as 170bhp. Fiat/Alfa is also on the point of launching its own six-speed, dual-clutch gearbox, and admits seven-speed versions are a possibility for the future.

The entry price for the Abarth roadster is tipped to be “affordable” at around £25,000. This also clearly negates any relationship with the X-Bow, which uses an all-carbonfibre chassis and an Audi engine and costs £50,000 to £80,000.

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Though engineering and design are at an advanced stage, the Abarth project’s business case is still under review and awaiting sign-off from group supremo Sergio Marchionne. Despite the success of the Fiat 500, which draws much from Fiat history, Marchionne is famously unsentimental about projects he suspects will not generate healthy returns.

One sticking point may be the size of the investment required for a car that will command worldwide sales of no more than 5000 units. Lotus’s current Elise/Exige volume is half that.

One point in the new car’s favour is that Fiat will soon have an ideal plant ready for its manufacture, just outside Turin. The group recently acquired the Grugliasco manufacturing plant of the struggling Bertone coachbuilding firm (the design side has been retained by the Bertone family) and is currently rebuilding it for the manufacture of various low-volume models and variants.

Work is due to be completed next year; that would be perfect timing for a new Abarth sports car that would appear a further 12 months down the line.

Steve Cropley

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29 October 2010

Cool! The rendering's headlights & grille do make it look a bit like a character from the "Cars" animated film, but the idea is great. I always really liked the looks of the Barchetta & this car would be a kind of successor to that, so I have high expectations. Just as long as they make it RHD this time!!

currently a happy owner of a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin :)

29 October 2010

I agree with Roverfan; the appearance of any truly contemporary lightweight roadster will make traffic spotting that bit more interesting.

29 October 2010

looks a bit too similar to the Elise for me

would have preferred a retro X19 styled car

29 October 2010

I love it, my perfect car-after-next.

Just one thing Autocar, is it 20k as in the tagline, or from 25k as in the text? That is one big difference at this end of the market.

Competance executes, character inspires

29 October 2010

[quote adam2853]Just one thing Autocar, is it 20k as in the tagline, or from 25k as in the text?[/quote]

They did exactly the same thing on the front of this week's mag - £20k on the cover but it had risen to £25k by the time you got to page 11. That's inflation! Or just plain misleading...

29 October 2010

If Lotus go upmarket, heavy, powerful and consumptive then this will be the perfect antidote. Hooray.

29 October 2010

With regard to this promising cars price then obviously £20k much more important than £25k although I expect that both prices can be justified by different specs. I would prefer this design than an X1-9 clone as that car always looked like a noddy car, and with today's add safety would just look odd.

29 October 2010

I like this, alot!!

29 October 2010

Very nice but I think they could sacrifice some of the vents and ducts at the front in favour of some luggage space under the bonnet. The removable hardtop is going to take up space. They should use the rear vents for the intercooler and radiator, respectively.

29 October 2010

Its 20k for a 180bhp Punto so I doubt this will be anywhere near, 25-30k would be my guess, maybe over £30k as it will be a low volume car, if it ever happens.


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