Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

High-Tech Tweaks Are Sure to Be a Boost

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

High-Tech Tweaks Are Sure to Be a Boost

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Russon

TURBO tweaks have created two new hot shots in the Fiat stable in the shape of the latest Abarth 500 convertible and the Abarth Punto Evo. Since its return to glory as a standalone brand a couple of years ago, Abarth has carved out a niche in the UK for producing incredibly sporty little cars.

The company founded in the 1950s by Karl Abarth cut its teeth on the race tracks of Europe and now as part of the Fiat Group its famous scorpion badge is back in business.

Having established itself in the UK with hot versions of the Fiat 500 and the larger Grande Punto, Abarth is now adding the 500 convertible and Punto Evo to its line up.

The latter replaces the Grande Punto and priced from pounds 16,500 is the more affordable of the two newcomers.

The Abarth 500C costs from pounds 17,500 - pounds 1,500 more than the most expensive Fiat version - and realistically is an expensive plaything for the serious motorist.

Make no doubt about it, there is a lot of race-bred engineering under the skin of the Abarth 500C which can be enjoyed to the full only on a track - as we discovered at the Teesside Autodrome in Middlesbrough.

A turbo-charged 1.4-litre engine pumps out 140bhp giving it a 0 to 60 acceleration time of 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 128mph with average fuel economy of 43.4mpg and emissions of 151g/km.

On the road the Abarth 500 is a wasp of a car with a smashing buzz from the exhaust and sharp handling.

A sport button firms up the suspension and steering response while altering the gear ratios to give more zip.

An advanced traction system can be brought into play which mimics limited slip differential. It improves high-speed stability, but it's a device best enjoyed on a circuit.

The car is also fitted with a five-speed semi-automatic Competizione gearbox, which, as its name suggests, is not entirely suited to everyday use.

Manual operation is from steering wheel-mounted paddles - and shifts are rapid - but in auto mode it is not at all smooth through the box.

There is no gear lever as such, with four buttons mounted in the dash for manual/auto selection, first, neutral and reverse. …

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