Currently reading: Fiat's £20k Elise rival uncovered
Fiat-owned Abarth brand plans bespoke sports car; mid-engined, rear-drive layout; similar to Elise

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.

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.

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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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jonboy4969 16 June 2013

Another non story from

Another non story from Autocar, this ws suppsoedly to appear a year ago, and have we seen anything like this, NO, becaus e it was never on the cards at FIAT, I wish motoring magazines would stop making stuff up, it is boring and makes you look stupid when it is proven that the story is made up.

SpiritOfSenna 13 June 2013

Economies of scale ?

With regard to the question of it being a low-volume car, I vaguely recall that Alfa and Mazda will be producing the next Spider & MX5 largely in tandem, and (despite all the references to the Lotus Elise/Exige) I'm wondering if perhaps this proposed Abarth will be based on the Alfa/Mazda, albeit wearing different clothing.

I've no objections if it is an Alfa/Mazda in different clothes, but I'm just wondering and inviting more knowledge members to comment on whether it's likely/possible. Alternately, maybe a similar arrangement with the Alfa 4C instead of the Spider ?

versace 31 October 2010

Re: Fiat's £20k Elise rival uncovered

DSP123 wrote:
The design won quite a few friends over the years and was a pure wedge in its 1300cc form. The designer - Isagawa from memory - later admitted his debt to Gandini's design by keeping the layout in his MR2.

The X19 is the 'granddaddy' of all other affordable mid-engine sports cars since... why, even the Pontiac Fiero was clearly influenced by the X19... remember, the X19's styling dates back almost 40 years.

Someone else also made a comment about not wanting another clone X19, but other current cars that are 'clones' of originals (MINI, VW BEETLE, FIAT 500, etc.) clearly demonstrate that the concept of "reflective design" actually works very well in business.

A sports car is, after all, an emotional product. What better way to stir the emotions than to recall the emotions stirred by the original? That is essentially what "reflective design" does.

Why, if there was a modern-day X19 with a reinterpretation of the original avant-garde styling and a decent power-to-weight of around 170 BHP/Ton or so, with pricing that properly and unashamedly undercuts the current ELISE 1.6, tell me the current cult-following of the original classic wouldn't notice...