Fiat’s performance arm Abarth has been relatively quiet of late, but it’s set to turn up the heat with an all-new car – and an unusual one at that. We’ve already revealed the brand’s plans to create its own extreme version of the forthcoming Fiat 124 Spider, yet the new product launches won’t stop there.
The company is evaluating which Fiat will next spawn an Abarth variant, and according to bosses, the curvy 500X is near the top of the pile. “Besides the 124 and 500, we are thinking about an all-new addition to the line-up,” Alfredo Altavilla, Fiat Chrysler Group chief operating officer, told us. “The 500X is one of the options being considered.”
Should an Abarth 500X get the green light for production, it would allow Abarth, and therefore Fiat, to not only grab a larger slice of the massively profitable crossover class, but also get a strong foothold in the underdeveloped performance crossover market – a stomping ground for the Nissan Juke Nismo RS and MINI Countryman JCW.
Our exclusive main image shows what we could expect from the racy new Abarth. The Fiat 500X’s high-riding stance will be lowered, with chunkier bumpers, deeper side skirts and larger wheels all helping to make the hot model look meaner.
Twin tailpipes, a large rear spoiler and an under-bumper diffuser will complete the radical overhaul, while inside, expect deep bucket front seats, extra sports dials and gauges, as well as plenty of ‘Scorpion’ badges.
Under the bonnet, the Abarth 500X could use the same 1.75-litre turbo Alfa Romeo 4C engine that’s set for the Abarth 124 Spider. As in the two-seater, this is likely to be detuned to around 200bhp for the crossover.
The 500X could follow the Countryman JCW’s lead in being all-wheel drive, too, although considering that the only Fiat 500X with four-wheel drive is a 2.0-litre diesel with a nine-speed automatic box, a cheaper and lighter front-wheel-drive configuration is more likely.
When production is confirmed, Abarth fans shouldn’t just expect to see a flash Fiat 500X. Altavilla – an engineer who was the brains behind the madcap and stripped-out Abarth 695 Biposto – points to his axing of the Fiat Grande Punto Abarth over a year ago as a clear sign that any new Abarth will be a true performance proposition.
“We went a bit too far with the Punto Abarth,” he said. “Now our customers won’t buy a fake. If the 500X becomes the addition to the Abarth line-up, it will be everything but a family version.”
Enthusiasts will get their first taste of more focused, performance-driven Abarths next year with the launch of the new 500 range. And despite the fact that Fiat’s revamped city car will arrive this September, Abarth dealers will carry on selling the pre-facelifted models until the newcomer wearing the cosmetic tweaks arrives at least 12 months later.
“Any new version of an Abarth car should deliver some sort of a performance enhancement, otherwise it is useless,” added Altavilla. “We have to be consistent with that DNA of our cars, so the new 500 will be one step forward in that direction.”
It’s easy to see why a performance 500X is on the way. Nearly 10,400 examples of the standard model have found homes in Europe in the first part of 2015, and with sales in the small SUV crossover sector set to grow to 1.3 million a year in Europe by 2020, performance versions will have lots of potential customers to aim at.
That’s why Nissan is reportedly readying a Nismo version of its best-selling Qashqai crossover, powered by a tuned 1.6-litre DIG-T engine producing significantly more than the 215bhp Juke Nismo RS. Its sister car, the Renault Kadjar, is also preparing for a Renaultsport makeover.
Now read more about the upcoming Fiat 124 Spider.