Saturday, 2 February 2008

Fiat Abarth Grande Punto

Abarth rose to fame as an independent automotive racing company that primarily used tuned Ferraris and Porsches. In 1971 Abarth was purchased by Fiat and became the racing department of Fiat as well as subsidiaries Lancia and Autobianchi. The Abarth scorpion logo became something to fear in rally and hill climb races. The Autobianchi Abarth A112 was particularly successful and popular. Fiat is now bringing the Abarth badge back with the 2007 Fiat Abarth Grande Punto. Abarth will act as its own separate division within Fiat.

The 2007 Fiat Abarth Grande Punto was revealed at Geneva this year to a very happy crowd. The new Abarth Punto looks much sleeker and sexier than past Fiat Puntos and has a very clean look due to the taillights being mounted high. This also has many sporty cues that differentiate it from a standard Fiat Punto. First of all there is a dual exhaust along with racing-style wheels. Big disc brakes and red calipers give off a sporty appearance to those who know where to look. And racing stripes along the bottom of the car make its sportiness known to even the uninitiated.

There have been Abarth editions of the Fiat Punto in the past, but they were not true Abarth cars. For one, they were created by Fiat rather than being tuned by Abarth engineers. Secondly, they did not have any true mechanical upgrades and instead featured only styling changes such as body kits. The 2007 Abarth Punto is going to be a true Abarth road car with vastly upgraded performance.

It will come with a 1.4 liter turbocharged engine that makes 150 horsepower at only 5500 RPM. Even better, the car will make 155 horsepower on 98 RON gasoline, if the owner is so inclined. There will also be a booster kit available soon after the car goes on sale. This kit will allow the car to make 180 horsepower. For such a light car 180 horsepower is an extreme amount. Many American and Japanese sport compact cars make 190-230 horsepower, but they are much larger and heavier than the little Punto. Many small sporty cars like the Punto that have small high performance engines require a high engine speed to make good power. For example, many Honda four cylinders engines need to rev over 7000 RPM to make over 180 horsepower. The Abarth Punto engine is very small, but it has good mid-range power and torque. Time will tell whether the stressed-out pumped-up 1.4 liter turbo engine will be reliable in the long term, but unless the owner does any aggressive engine modifications the engine should be pretty stout.

Handling and braking, too, will no doubt be world class. However, the best part may be the price. While the car will not be marketed until September and no price is set, it will surely be less expensive than the American and Japanese sport compact cars, and will likely get better gas mileage as well. This makes the 2007 Fiat Abarth Grande Punto a perfect choice for young buyers that want an inexpensive car that will get good gas mileage and still be very fun to drive.

Abarth is also making a return to rally racing with the new Abarth Grande Punto. The 2007 Grande Punto S2000 will be entered into the Italian Rally Championship using Giandomenico Basso and Mitia Dotta and driver and navigator. The S2000 racing version of the car will make 270 horsepower and have all wheel drive. The S2000 is also set to race in the World Rally Championship next year in hopes of getting international acclaim.

As the S2000 racing version of the Grande Punto is put through its paces on the rally courses around the world, the Abarth team will get precious data on how the car works and what can be done to improve it in racing conditions. These advances will surely trickle down to the consumer and more official parts will become available to increase the streetcars' performance. Third party tuners will likely create products as well to fill the demand created by rally fans wanting to turn their road car into a street legal race car resembling the official Fiat Abarth rally car in looks and performance.

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