The world of racing changed in 1949 with an idea. An idea born through the vision of Carlo Abarth. A simple idea that would inspire a legacy. Performance for everyone.
Small and wicked
Abarth’s ingenuity gave birth to distinctive, stylish, small, agile cars with mean little engines. He realised that the cost of racing was too high and so developed the first modification kit for the gearbox and tailpipes of the Fiat Topolino. This was a ‘runaway’ hit since it allowed everyone to convert their Topolino into a faster, more exciting car. And thus was born the Abarth philosophy of performance for everyone. Abarth was turning the small and meek into the small and wickedly fast by tuning them to get the most out of the engines. The result? Records after records, year after year and great car after great car. Even today, the cars from 50 years ago, like the 750 Abarth, Fiat 500 Abarth, the 595 and the 595ss are considered iconic. Fuelled by experimentation, success and passion, Abarth never ceases to electrify automotive enthusiasts.
The India chapter
Petrolheads in India were starved for machines that excite. Then in 2001 Fiat launched what could be called India’s very first hot hatch – the Fiat Palio 1.6 GTX. Never before had India seen a hatchback with as much style and substance. This was the first hatchback in India to be propelled by the power of 100 thundering horses. 100bhp in a small car was unheard of back then. People could finally experience real performance. But the Indian market wasn’t ready for it. It is now. And after waiting for decades, petrolheads in India have a reason to celebrate. Abarth finally arrived in India in 2015.
Fiat began Abarth’s India chapter with the launch of the Fiat Abarth 595. Though it looks similar to the standard car except for a bodykit, the 595 has a completely different mechanical setup. Under the hood is a 158bhp, 1.4-litre turbo-petrol motor developing 23.45kgm of torque. Its suspension is lowered and stiffened. Its interiors have been tweaked for performance without compromising style or comfort.
That was just the beginning. The Fiat Abarth 595 is an object of desire. Something to aspire for. But Abarth remembers its roots. And true to form it followed with a one-two combination powerful enough to knock out anyone who dares stand in their way. The 145bhp Fiat Abarth Punto and the 140bhp Fiat Avventura powered by Abarth are the realisation of the Abarth philosophy in India. Performance for everyone.
That is what greeted the news about Fiat launching the Fiat Abarth Punto in India. Die-hard fans of the Palio 1.6 now had another Fiat to celebrate. It is all that a hatchback should be and is not supposed to be at the same time. It’s compact but has enough interior space, has the flamboyant Italian looks and is practical for everyday use like a hatchback should be. But then there’s the monster lurking under its hood. 145bhp of raw power waiting to be unleashed. A proper hot hatch indeed.
Ask any automotive enthusiast and they’ll tell you that there’s not supposed to be a computer between the driver and the engine. They’ll tell you that there’s not supposed to be a middleman deciding what gear you should be in at any point of time. That you should be able to read the road through the steering and that the steering wheel should have the right sort of feel. That pure exhilaration comes when a brilliant car meets a driver that understands and respects it. This is that car. This is the car that separates the real driving enthusiasts from those who just want to be driving enthusiasts.
The Abarth Punto Evo has all the ingredients to make petrolheads rejoice. A strong engine, a conventional five-speed manual and an old-school hydraulically assisted steering. Disc brakes on all four wheels help rein in all that power. An extremely stiff, but heavy chassis make this car handle and ride brilliantly. The ride height has been lowered by 30mm from the standard Punto to 155mm to add sportiness and a stiffer suspension set-up helps it handle that significant increase in power. The retuned suspension gives it a firm edge over uneven surfaces but it never feels harsh. Sporty and practical at the same time.
Then there’s the hydraulically assisted steering. This is the kind of steering driving enthusiasts ordered. Quick, accurate and has the all important correct ‘feel’. From behind the wheel you’ll think this is one light, eager car that darts in the direction you point it. This is where you bring on twisty mountain roads and grin like an absolute mental. This is the automotive world being set right again.
There’s a scorpion in your eye
Look at it. Just look at it. That unbeatable Italian style. That unmistakable sense of power. The flash of red on its tight lines. Somehow it’s just right with its excess. Whether in black or white, the Abarth Punto is an absolute showstopper. Even though it looks like the Punto Evo there’s no mistaking the distinctive Abarth look. The chrome bits on the grille, fog and rear light housing, door handles and exhaust tip add sharpness. The stunning 16-inch Scorpion Sting alloy wheels add menace. The precision engineered sporty side skirting and colour co-ordinated wing mirror caps are the flash of red others will see as you pass them on the streets or the track.
Settle in for a long drive
Once you’ve beaten everyone else to the driver’s seat, settle in and take a look around. The comfortable, supportive black seats with red and yellow stitching add dynamism. The scorpion- adorned Abarth instrument cluster gives you all the information you need. Put your hands on the steering wheel and feel its weight. Place your legs on aluminium Abarth race pedals and feel the engine rev. This is when you realise what lies ahead and your heart begins to race. All you have to do now is set the air conditioning to keep you comfortable, get your favourite tunes on the music system and go.
That’s how long it takes to get to 100kph from standstill. This is the first mainstream hatch in India to pull this off. There is no other in its category that has beaten the 10-second barrier. It’s all down to the 1.4-litre T-Jet engine that churns out a mind boggling 145bhp at 5,500rpm and 21.41kgm between 2,000 -4,000rpm.
How do you add a dose of practicality to fun? And if you do, is it still fun? Yes, it can be. Abarth took Fiat’s adventure loving, practical Avventura and added some special scorpion sting to it. They took an already exciting, solid and classy car and added a healthy dose of power and aggression. What does that make it? A practical family car that does not compromise on the driving experience. A combination of all things great.
The regular Avventura is a good car. What makes the Powered by Abarth edition better is the turbocharged petrol powerhouse under the hood. There’s no meek, just-touching-the-edge of three digit bhp motor here. It’s a proper 140bhp whack you to the back of your seat, free revving engine. A noteworthy point is that Abarth has limited the power output to 140bhp because it’s capable of more. This means that the engine will never be stretched to produce that power. This also translates into its ability to be a light sipper.
A proper crossover doesn’t just have extra plastic stuck on it to make it look the part. It needs to have the mechanicals to back it up. The Avventura Powered by Abarth has this too. Its ride height has been raised so it rides a good 205mm above the ground. Does this compromise it in anyway? No. Because Fiat and Abarth have done this right. The suspension has be recalibrated and a fine-tuned anti-roll bar has been added at the rear. The Avventura Powered by Abarth also rides on fatter, grippier 205/55 tyres that also enhance the look of the car.
Show it some corners and you realise how well the Avventura Powered by Abarth has been engineered. The ride, handling and balance just shine. Despite the substantial ground clearance, it doesn’t shift its weight when thrown around corners. Drive it over our regular potholes roads and it remains totally unfazed. You may even be tempted to drive this car off the beaten path and explore some broken, dusty trails. When you have a hydraulically assisted steering that lets you read the road, is precise and gives you accurate control over the car, driving anywhere is fun. But that power needs a good control measure. So obviously all wheels come equipped with disc brakes.
A raised suspension, considerable cladding, very aggressive bumpers, functional roof rails, rear-mounted spare wheel and the stunning 16-inch Scorpion Sting alloys make the Avventura Powered by Abarth looks very, very good. So whether you’re driving in the city or on a dirt track somewhere, you can be sure that this car will be noticed.
Slip behind the wheel of the Avventura Powered by Abarth and you’ll notice a few things. Like the exterior, the inside of the car is also built in a luxurious but tough manner. The dual-tone, soft-touch dashboard feels very premium and the craftsmanship is top-class. Sitting in the centre are high-terrain gauges containing a compass and horizontal and vertical inclinometers let you know exactly where you’re going and how crazy you’re getting. Of course, this car was built so you could get crazy. But without compromising safety. The Avventura Powered by Abarth
has front dual airbags with early crash sensors, solid back seats with a metal back, a fire prevention system and advanced wipers to ensure that you get out of all your adventures unscathed.
These two cars signal very exciting times for car lovers. Affordable performance machines have finally arrived in India. The best part? They’ve got everything. There’s no compromise. And they’ve been brought in by Abarth, a name that’s famous around the world for creating some extremely exciting cars. It is well and truly, time to drive.