What to Read Next

LA Auto Show 2011: Fiat 500 Abarth in US production trim

Justin Hyde
November 17, 2011
Click to view slideshow
Click to view slideshow

MORE AT YAHOO! AUTOS

Like much of Italy's economy, the Fiat 500 has suffered a lackluster year, with Americans buying less than half of the Cinquecentos Fiat expected to sell and a Jennifer Lopez ad testing the proposition that all publicity is good publicity. Here's the reinforcement arriving in March: the 160-hp turbo Abarth.

The 500 isn't a bad small car, but it's probably a bit too cute to ever be a mainstream vehicle. The Abarth version goes some distance toward putting a scorpion on the 500's face, with a tighter, lowered suspension and upgraded brakes, steering and wheels. The power of 160 hp and 170 lb.-ft. is slightly lower than some Fiat enthusiasts were hoping for, but still enough to make the 2,500-lb. Abarth scoot with some authority.

Fiat didn't release prices, but an affordable and credible sports-flavored 500 could undo some of the damage done by J-Lo's gyrations. If it misses, Fiat troubles could grow; there's only so many chances to fix it again.