In a bold step in the continually evolving history of the Fiat brand in South Africa, Fiat has marked its return to performance with the new flagship for the Stilo range, the Abarth 2.4 20v that retails for R199,700.

Abarth and Fiat have an illustrious performance heritage dating back to 1955 when the tuning wizard, Carlo Abarth modified his first Fiat 600. Fiat Auto was so taken by the Austrian’s genius they bought his company in 1971. Abarth cars would go on to win six Manufacturer’s World Championships including three World Rally titles with the Fiat Abarth 131 Rally.

The Fiat Stilo, is a car with a wealth of personality, the Abarth being the most aggressive and the most sporty. This car can really haul arse (scroll down and check the speedo shot). A solid, stylish car with all the attributes and benefits inherent in a top-of-the range sports car;  innovative design, cutting-edge technology and clever solutions to make life simpler, better and faster, much faster (sounds like a Standard Bank Ad doesn't it).

Now Fiat can add top performance to that parcel of characteristics: Abarth stands for performance in the Fiat stable and the Stilo Abarth is set to rival the best in the hot hatch market. And with it comes a host of exclusive equipment.

While the three-door Stilo is starting to establish itself in South Africa, the Abarth 2.4 brings new levels of standard equipment and most importantly performance to the range.

Talking point of the Stilo Abarth is its engine, the first five-cylinder power plant in the premium hatch market. This engine tops the Stilo range in terms of power and performance. A development of the five cylinder engine family, this 2 446cc power unit packs a punch of 125kW at 6,000 rpm and maximum torque of 221Nm at just 3,500 rpm.

The five-cylinder engine features twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. The power unit enjoys excellent flexibility thanks to a variable inlet manifold controlled by an electronic management system that also improves responsiveness. It not only helps endow the Abarth with impressive performance, it makes it one of the most efficient cars in its class returning a combined consumption figure of 9,7 litres per 100km.

The 20-valve engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and clocks the stopwatches at just 8,5 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint and marches on to a top (true) speed of 215kph, our clock indicated 222kph, with almost 1,000 rpm left before the 'Redline'. I Reckon I could have seen 230kph on the clock, just ran out of road.

To keep the Stilo’s performance on the road, the suspension is based around McPherson struts at the front with newly designed coil springs and lower wishbones. Enjoying a return to favour thanks to the latest technologies is a semi-independent torsion beam rear axle that offers compact packaging while delivering standard comfort and handling once obtainable only with very sophisticated suspension systems.

Brakes are ventilated discs at the front, solid discs at the rear with BOSCH ABS as standard. The advanced system features four active sensors, four channels and contains an electronic brakeforce distributor (EBD). The Fiat Abarth is fitted as standard with an emergency Brake Assist device and an Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

In addition to ESP, the Stilo Abarth is also fitted with a very sophisticated automatic traction control device to restrict drive wheel spin in the case of reduced road grip known as ASR (Anti Slip Regulation). ASR works at any speed and prevents the drive wheels from slipping by adjusting torque according to the grip coefficient detected at the time of slip. However, for those hooligans out there, there is a switch that can switch off the ASR system. The MSR (Motor Schleppmoment Regelung) cuts in when the gear is shifted down abruptly under conditions of low grip. This device restores torque to the engine to prevent the wheel skidding as a result of lock (clever hey?).

When it comes to safety, the Stilo Abarth is among the safest cars in its class. Dual front, side and window airbags are standard on the Abarth 2.4. The Stilo is also fitted with three rear three point seat belts. The Fiat Stilo is also equipped with an obstruction sensor for the electric front windows. A Fiat CODE II immobiliser that changes the access code each time the Stilo Abarth is started maintains security. Selective central locking by remote is also standard and the doors lock automatically at speeds above 20km/h. If the doors are not opened within 30 seconds of being unlocked by remote, they will lock again automatically.

The Fiat Stilo is easy to customize with the MY CAR configuration. All operations can be carried out via the panel to the left of the steering wheel and a button on top of the right steering wheel stalk.

Front cup holders, refrigerated glove compartment, front arm rest with oddments compartment, follow-me-home headlights, drivers seat lumbar adjustment electric power steering with the city function, radio with CD front loader and radio controls on the steering wheel as well as cruise control are all standard on the Stilo Abarth. The only fault I could find during the time we had the Abarth on test was that the cruise control didn't work every time, it seemed to work only when it wanted to.

The Fiat Stilo Abarth enjoys full after-sales backing in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory and to trained technicians at Fiat dealerships countrywide.

Fiat Auto South Africa offers Stilo owners a 36-month/100 000 km dealer warranty, three years on paintwork and five years on anti-perforation.

The new models are covered by the AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Services are required at 20 000 km for all Stilo models.     Kenn Slater.

Great sounds from the sound system and great fun from the potent 5-cylinder engine.


Abarth: the HISTORY OF THE Scorpion king

Abarth may have started out as an independent tuning business, but the company’s relationship with Fiat grew to such close levels that the brand is synonymous with building performance and racing Fiats. It is probably quite reasonable to assume that the scorpion insignia on red and yellow war paint meant that all Abarths had a sting in their tail, a marvel of production performance made affordable to a wide market.

As a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat Auto, Carlo Abarth formed Abarth and C.S.r.l. on 31 March 1949 “for the production of cars and complementary accessories for race cars”. The company was established in Bologna with a plant in Turin and became a major force to be reckoned with in racing circles for small production cars and more specialised racing cars. Abarth is most widely recognised for its exploits with Fiat, but its activities stretched across other brands too, including Porsche and Simca, as well as its own cars.

Carlo Abarth was an Austrian immigrant who settled in Italy. His company was recognised as a car manufacturer, but mostly as an accessory manufacturer. The wide range of go-fast bits ranged from spark plugs and oil filters to speed equipment including engine conversions. Abarth exhaust systems became famous throughout the world and were used as standard equipment on many Italian cars.

Abarth was built on the assets of Piero Dusio’s bankrupt Cisitalia Company, a racecar manufacturer for whom Carlo Abarth had designed a Grand Prix car. Included were six 204 Cisitalias that became Abarths and from 1950 to 1954, Abarth created one of the world’s best-known accessory firms and, almost as a sideline, produced a number of race and show cars.

In 1955, Abarth embarked on a series of production modifications to the new Fiat 600 and within a few short years created a bewildering array of Fiat-based sedans, record cars, race cars and GT cars. By the early ‘60s, Abarth was producing all-Abarth sports-racing cars.

Abarth’s conversions were marvels of engineering. The range of Fiat 600-based Abarths range from a 750cc Berlina to the awesome 1000TC Radiale that produced 112bhp (83kW), a remarkable feat considering the car’s humble 29bhp (21kW) basis. Everywhere the cars went they trounced the competition.

More exotic versions were bodied by some of the world’s finest stylists, including Allemano, Pininfarina and Zagato. Abarth also modified the Porsche 356 to great effect as well as various Simca models.

Abarth cars, although competing in class events, won six Manufacturer’s World Championships, more than 5 000 absolute or class victories and numerous endurance records with 500, 750 and 1000cc streamliners. In four years Abarth streamliners accumulated a remarkable 86 records in Classes G (751-1100cc), H (501-750cc) and I (350-500cc) in the late 1950s. Speeds were phenomenal for the engine capacity, showing Abarths engineering genius. Abarth broke the 24-hour Class H record in 1956 at an average speed of 155,857kph.

After Fiat’s takeover on 15 October 1971, Abarth would go on to win numerous rally championships with the Fiat 124 Rally and 131. The Fiat Abarth 124s won the European Rally Driver’s Championship and the Italian Rally Championship in 1975. Its rallying successor, the Fiat Abarth 131 Rally went on to win the World Rally Championship in 1977, 1978 and 1980.

Abarth would go on to form the basis of a range of performance Fiat accessories on various models. Fiat Punto and Stilo models still rally successfully in Europe with Abarth models. Abarth is the hallmark of performance for Fiat, its heritage steeped in racing prowess, its present marking the return of Stilo to SA Production Car racing and its future the continuing performance arm of Fiat road cars.


No. of cylinders, arrangement 5 in line, front transverse,  20 valves (4 per cylinder)
Bore x stroke (mm) 83.0 x 90.4
Capacity (cm3) 2446
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Max. power output kW (bhp-EC) at rpm 125(170) @ 6000
Peak torque Nm-EC (kgm-EC) at rpm 221 (22.5) @ 3500
Timing Control Variable geometry intake manifold
Fuel feed Multipoint sequential phased electronic injection, returnless system
Type Rack & pinion with electric power steering
Turning circle (m) 11.1
Front Mc Pherson independent wheels
Rear Interconnected wheels with twisting axle
BRAKES D-(Discs)
Front (mm) 281 (ventilated)
Rear (mm) 251
No. of seats / No. of doors 5/3
Length / Width / Height (mm) 4182/ 1784 / 1475
Wheelbase (mm) 2600
Front / rear track (mm) 1518 / 1512
Luggage compartment capacity (dm³) 305
Fuel tank (litres) 58
Kerb weight (DIN) (kg) 1265
Top speed (km/h) 215 (222 on clock)
Acceleration: 0 to 100 km/h (sec) 8.5
Consumption (l/100km)  
Urban cycle:                                                        13.5
 Out-of-town cycle:                7.6
Combined cycle: 9.7



Thanks to Jacques Wilken (of Wilken Communications) and Fiat South Africa

for the drive in their lively, head-turning Fiat Stilo Abarth 2.4.

and to the New Midvaal International Raceway for the use of their track.