Fiat 500: Fast 500 caught

Ex-Ferrari engineer develops powerplants for hot versions of baby Fiat

Fiat will have its eye on a slice of the hot hatch market when the pretty 500 finally arrives here in the UK next year. The company is well on the way to developing two Abarth versions to do battle with the likes of the Mini Cooper S and Corsa VXR.

In charge of engine development at Fiat road cars is Paulo Martinelli, whose CV includes designing Ferrari’s V10 F1 engines. Martinelli has been charged with creating both a 135bhp turbo version of the 500’s 1.4-litre engine and a range-topping 150bhp version that’s tipped to be called the Abarth 500SS, just like hot Abarths of old.

Expect to see the 135bhp 500 Abarth at this year’s Tokyo Show in October. The 150bhp version probably won't arrive in the UK until late in 2008 and is expected to cost around £15,000.

If 150bhp is not hot enough for you, then there are rumours circulating that a 200bhp variant has been undergoing development, though our contacts in Italy expect this amount of power will only be available to the racing version of the 500 Abarth that’s being readied for a one-make race series that Fiat is planning to launch in Italy next year. Shame.

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