As an automotive enthusiast, you’ve likely encountered the Abarth name at some point. Whether seeing a badge on a sporty little Fiat, hearing the distinctive exhaust note, or simply recognising the scorpion logo, the brand has built a fanbase over the years. This is your essential guide for those wanting to dive deeper into the world of this brand.
Within this article, you’ll find a complete history of how Carlo Abarth founded the company in 1949 and grew it into a powerhouse for performance parts and vehicles. You’ll get to know the range of hot hatches, sports cars, and one-of-a-kind models that have defined their style. You’ll also learn the secrets behind what gives these cars their distinctive flair and sound, and you’ll find advice for buying, owning, and maintaining one of your own.
This is your complete guide to the brand that introduced many to the thrill of high performance. Forge your connection to this automotive icon and join the club of devotees—the open road awaits.
How the Scorpion Brand Came to Be
Abarth & C. S.p.A, commonly known as just Abarth, is an Italian racing car and road car maker founded by the Italian-Austrian Carlo Abarth in 1949. He initially produced accessory and performance parts for Fiat, Lancia, Cisitalia, and Simca cars but eventually began producing high-performance versions of Fiats.
Born in Austria in 1908, he was a successful motorcycle racer before focusing on producing performance parts and accessories. After moving to Italy and recovering from injuries sustained in a crash, he founded Abarth & C. in 1949 to create performance equipment for production cars.
His first vehicle was the 204 A, developed from the Fiat 1100. The 750 GT and Fiat 1000 Berlina Corsa followed, with many more high-performance Fiats produced in partnership with Fiat throughout the 1970s.
Abarth Acquired by Fiat
In 1971, Fiat took complete control of the company, making it a Fiat Group brand focused on producing high-performance versions of Fiat models like the Fiat 124 Spider and X1/9. The brand has recently produced hot hatches based on the Fiat 500 and Punto.
Though no longer independent, Abarth has maintained its brand identity as a sporty, performance-focused Fiat vehicles producer. For those seeking an agile, powerful small car with Italian style and flair, Abarth continues to deliver vehicles that live up to the brand’s history and scorpion logo. With a racing heritage spanning 70 years, it remains an iconic performance brand and an essential part of Fiat’s history.
Carlo Abarth was a visionary who saw potential in small displacement engines. Under his leadership, Abarth & C. S.p.A. produced high-performance exhaust systems and engine modifications that improved small Fiat engines’ power, torque, and soundtrack. Abarth’s changes were so successful that Fiat acquired it in 1971, though the founder remained president until he died in 1979.
Guido Scagliarini was his first test driver and helped develop many early models. Scagliarini won multiple Formula 2 races and hill climb events while driving the brand’s cars. His success and Carlo’s engineering prowess brought international recognition to the fledgling company.
Other key contributors were Mario Colucci, a master engine builder, and Alberto Massimino, a chassis designer. Colucci extracted remarkable power from the cars’ small displacement engines, while Massimino designed innovative chassis and suspension systems suited to high-performance driving.
The combination of vision, engineering skill, and passion for performance embodied in Carlo Abarth, Guido Scagliarini, Mario Colucci, and Alberto Massimino built the foundation for the brand’s success and enduring legacy as a maker of thrilling high-performance cars. Their work is today in modern models like the Abarth 595 and Abarth 695.
Abarth Models Through the Years: A Timeline of Iconic Cars
Abarth has produced high-performance variants of Fiat models for decades. Here’s a look at some of the most iconic cars through the years:
1949 – Abarth 205A
Their first car, the 205A, was based on the Fiat 500 Topolino. Carlo Abarth tuned the engine to produce 20 hp, a 50% increase in power over the standard Fiat 500. Only a few 205A models were made, making them highly collectable today.
1964 – Abarth 595
The 595 was based on the Fiat 500 but with a modified engine that produced 21 hp. This afforded the small car a top speed of 105 km/h (65 mph). Over 57,000 Abarth 595s were built between 1962 to 1971, cementing its status as an automotive icon.
2007 – Abarth Grande Punto
The brand was revived in 2007 under Fiat ownership. The first new model was the Abarth Grande Punto, a Fiat Grande Punto performance variant. Powered by a 1.4L turbocharged engine producing 155 hp, the Abarth Grande Punto could reach 217 km/h (135 mph) and accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds.
2008 – Abarth 500
Based on the Fiat 500, the Abarth 500 featured a turbocharged 1.4L engine that produced 135 hp. It can reach 205 km/h (127 mph) from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.9 seconds, providing exhilarating performance in a small, stylish package. The Abarth 500 has been a sales success and helped revive the brand.
2013 – Abarth 695 Biposto
The 695 Biposto, dubbed the “smallest supercar,” featured a 190 hp 1.4L engine in a street-legal track car. Only 1,695 were produced between 2014 to 2016, making the 695 Biposto an instant collectable. With a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) and 0-100 km/h acceleration in 5.9 seconds, the 695 Biposto provides extreme performance and a raw, visceral driving experience.
What Makes an Abarth an Abarth? Performance Upgrades and Styling
What makes an Abarth an Abarth are the performance upgrades and styling that set these hot hatches apart. Their models are performance-focused versions of Fiat’s small cars, like the 500 and 124 Spider. They feature sportier exterior styling, more powerful engines, upgraded brakes and suspensions, and performance exhaust systems.
Powerful Turbocharged Engines
The brand’s models have turbocharged engines that produce significantly more power than the standard Fiats. The Abarth 595 range uses a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo engine producing up to 180 horsepower, while the 695 range bumps up to 190 horsepower. The 124 Spider has a 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder with 164 horsepower. These turbocharged powerplants give the brand’s models intense and infallible performance and acceleration.
The brand’s models feature aggressive styling elements to match their sporty performance. This includes larger alloy wheels, quad exhaust tips, rear spoilers, unique bumpers, sports seats, and Abarth badging throughout. The styling conveys these hot hatches’ performance potential and racing heritage. Colour options include bright shades like red, yellow, and green to make a bold statement.
Abarth models also receive upgraded brakes, suspensions, and other chassis components to exploit the added powerfully. Stiffer suspension tuning, bigger brakes, and stickier tires provide the handling prowess to match the potent engines. The result is a balanced, engaging driving experience encouraging enthusiastic driving on curvy back roads. Look for models with the optional Brembo brake package and Koni shocks for maximum performance.
The Ownership Experience
Owning an Abarth is an experience like no other for driving enthusiasts. The Abarth brand is synonymous with performance, passion, and Italian flair. As an owner, you join an exclusive club with a rich heritage and vibrant community.
A Thrilling Drive
Driving one of these is a visceral experience. The turbocharged engines provide a surge of power that thrills. The sport-tuned suspensions hug the road for precise handling. The raspy exhaust notes evoke emotion. All your senses are engaged when behind the wheel of these high-performance hatchbacks. Whether commuting or tackling a winding mountain road, every drive in one of these high-powered vehicles is an exhilarating adventure.
The models tend to be highly customisable to reflect your unique personality. Many options for performance upgrades, style enhancements, and interior refinements are available from the brand itself and third-party suppliers. You can transform a stock of these cars into a highly personalised hot hatch with a custom look and additional power. An array of wheels, spoilers, decals, pedal covers, shift knobs, and more allow you to make one of these models your own.
Community and Events
As an owner, you can access an enthusiastic community and many organised events. Several clubs welcome owners of all experience levels. They host drives, meetups, and rallies that provide opportunities to connect with other “Abarthisti.” Significant events like the Raduno Abarth and Fiat FreakOut draw owners worldwide. This active, passionate community is one of the most rewarding aspects of Abarth ownership.
Owning an Abarth provides much more than just a vehicle from point A to point B. You gain membership into a spirited club with a shared devotion to performance, customisation and camaraderie. This is an ownership experience you’ll treasure for years to come.
FAQs: Common Questions About Abarth Answered
Many prospective owners have questions about these high-performance hatchbacks. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers:
How much horsepower do Abarths have?
Most models have a 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo engine that produces between 160 to 190 horsepower, depending on the model. The 595 Competizione and 695 Rivale have the most power at 180 hp. The 124 Spider has a 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo engine that generates 164 hp.
Are Abarths reliable?
They are generally very reliable if properly maintained. As with any performance vehicle, following the recommended maintenance schedule is essential to keep it running well. Some things to keep in mind:
• Use high-quality synthetic motor oil and change it regularly.
• Inspect and rotate high-performance tires often.
• Be cautious of modifications that could void the factory warranty.
• Turbochargers require occasional replacement, typically after 100,000 miles.
• Perform all recall and service campaigns to address any known issues.
• Drive the vehicle regularly to prevent problems from lack of use.
How much does an Abarth cost?
The models typically start between $20,000 to $30,000. Exact pricing depends on the model and trim level:
• 595 models start around $22,000.
• 695 models are typically $25,000 and up.
• The 124 Spider roadster starts at around $29,000.
Options, packages, and limited edition models can increase the price. They hold their value well, with some unique edition models even appreciating over time due to their collectability.
Is Abarth an excellent daily driver?
They can work as daily drivers, but there are a few considerations:
• Ride quality is substantial, which some may find uncomfortable for long commutes.
• Cargo space is limited, though the rear seats fold down when more room is needed.
• Fuel economy is modest at around 28 mpg combined for most models.
• The sporty handling and power may tempt you into an aggressive driving style unsuitable for everyday commuting.
• Limited edition and high-performance models are best suited as a second fun vehicle, not a primary mode of transportation.
For many owners, though, the excitement of driving one of these every day outweighs these potential downsides. With some restraint, it can function as a daily driver.
After reading through this guide, you have a solid foundation of the legendary Italian performance brand. From its humble beginnings as a race car manufacturer to its acquisition and revival under Fiat, the brand has a rich history of producing highly tuned, race-inspired vehicles. Their current lineup provides an exhilarating driving experience for those seeking maximum performance and style. Whether you’re interested in learning about its storied past or excited to get behind one of its finely crafted sports cars, use this guide as your reference to all things Abarth.