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by Jay Traugott
Get ready for what could be the best small car performance bargain of the year.
If the base Fiat 500 is not powerful enough for you and the Abarth 500 is simply too much, a new middle of the road approach will soon be making its way to North American showrooms. The 2013 Fiat 500 Turbo has just been unveiled at Pebble Beach and its arrival couldn't have come soon enough. While the base 500 has received respectable reviews, its biggest drawback is the lack of grunt - just 101 horsepower. The Abarth 500 delivers a wonderfully turbocharged 160hp, but Fiat knows that not everyone needs and/or wants that.
The 500 Turbo will therefore be the answer for many. Powered by the same 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-four, it's also turbocharged like the Abarth, but total output is now at 135hp and 150 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a five-speed manual and complete with a sport suspension and better steering calibration, the 500 Turbo will be priced from $19,500 (not including a $700 destination fee). Yes, that is quite a bargain and buyers will also be treated to a sport exhaust, front-lower control arms and a high-performance brake system.
There are also 16-inch aluminum wheels, unique front-end styling and side sills to give it a more athletic appearance and improved aerodynamics. The interior has also been upgraded from the base model with new sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and even optional heated leather seats. Perhaps the best feature here is the new Beats by Dr. Dre high-definition audio system. But we want you to notice something interesting here: the European Abarth 500 has 135hp while its North American counterpart is tuned to 160hp.
The new 500 Turbo in that case has the same output as the European Abarth 500. Whoever said Europe always gets the best stuff? Set to arrive in US showrooms this fall, another question to ask ourselves is whether the Turbo is a better bargain than the Abarth? It comes with similar chassis upgrades, a fantastic sound system, enhanced bodywork and only 25 less horsepower - all for a few thousand dollars less.