For the first time in its 70-plus year history the iconic Italian performance brand Abarth has launched a pure EV model, in the shape of the new Abarth 500e.
Powered by a 42kWh battery and a single 114kW/235Nm electric motor, the compact, front-wheel drive performance hatch is claimed by its makers to offer improved dynamics relative to the combustion-powered Abarth 695 it replaces.
Scheduled for local launch in late 2023 the new car has a longer wheelbase (+20mm) and a wider track (front and rear) for what Abarth says will be “quicker response, better corner entry, and a higher cornering and exit speed”.
Although an obvious evolution of the outgoing (Fiat 500-based) 695’s design, car spotters will notice a new front bumper (incorporating a white dam/splitter), revised side skirts, reworked diffuser inserts, unique 18-inch alloy wheels and ‘Titanium Grey’ exterior mirror caps. Lighting is now full LED.
Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration is 7.0 seconds, and there are three driving modes available – ‘Turismo’ (lowers outputs to 100kW/220Nm for smoother acceleration and improved efficiency), ‘Scorpion Street’ (maximum performance and full ‘single-pedal’ regen braking), and ‘Scorpion Track’ a maximum attack, minimal driver aids setting.
The 500e features an 85kW battery charging system, with Abarth claiming (with sufficient charger input power) that 40km of range is available after five minutes, and 80 per cent of battery capacity is on tap after 35 minutes. Claimed range is 320km.
With the swap from combustion to electric power one missing element is engine noise, and Abarth’s technical boffins have introduced an “immersive sound experience” to replace it.
For example, turning the car on or off produces a guitar sequence inside the cabin, and the ‘AVAS’ (Acoustic Vehicle Alert System) gets a specific “jingle”.
The first time you exceed 20km/h, a “strumming guitar” comes in again, while traditionalists can tune the ‘Sound Generator’ to what the maker calls “the unmistakable Abarth roar, faithfully reproducing the sound of an Abarth petrol engine”.
Time will tell whether a synthetic approximation will satisfy brand devotees. But Fiat and Abarth CEO Olivier Francois is confident it will, saying, “you may ask ‘why electric?’. Well, basically, performance made us do it: in fact, every change made in the Abarth is about getting the best driving performance.
“That’s exactly how our founder, Carlo Abarth, always went at it. So, from that point of view, let’s say that nothing has changed: better acceleration, better handling, more fun. And then there’s Abarth’s legendary signature: its sound,” he said.
To launch the new car Abarth is building 1949 (Carlo Abarth founded the company in 1949) examples of the 500e Scorpionissima.
Offered in hatch and cabrio form the launch edition is finished in a choice of ‘Acid Green’ or ‘Poison Blue’ with specific Alcantara trimmed sports seats (the synthetic suede is also applied to the steering wheel and dash fascia).
The Scorpionissima also features a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen, 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, and premium JBL audio.
Interestingly, the Abarth 500e is akin to a work of fan fiction with the company claiming dialogue with 160,000 ‘Abarthists’ around the world.
Through an initiative dubbed ‘Performance creators’ Abarth directly asked them for input on its future vehicles, with community members having their say on the 500e’s new sound and colours.
According to Abarth’s parent brand Stellantis exact pricing and specification will be released closer to the 500e’s Australian launch in late 2023.
For reference the out-going Abarth 695 ranges between $36,400 before on-road costs for the five-speed manual and $38,400 for the five-speed auto.
Keyword: A hot hatch electric car! 2023 Abarth 500e confirmed for Australia next year as new compact performance hatchback puts an electric sting in the scorpion's tail to fight Cupra Born and GWM Ora Good Car GT