But now Fiat seems to have upped the game, with reports that a higher-spec prototype of the Fiat 500X prepared by Abarth has been spotted on test in Italy with its badge covered up – a sure indication that this is a prototype.
The crossover is certainly cute but is it about to get spiced up? The Italian video seems to show a highly potent version, flaunting its dual exhaust system and hunky 19-inch alloys.
The news isn’t such a big shock as late last year Fiat's Vice President of Design, Roberto Giolito, said, "The 500X is a good body for Abarth. [It’s] absolutely perfect in terms of drivability and control. The driving seat is perfectly measured to aid controlling the car. So the Abarth would be perfect." Fiat officials have also previously hinted that a faster version of the 500X makes sense.
Of course, the Fiat 500X does come with a powerful four-cylinder 2.4-litre Tigershark engine. That offers 184 bhp (137 kW), which isn’t too shabby so any Abarth offering would be expected to be well into the 200 bhp-plus territory. While precise intentions aren’t known at this time a prime candidate could be the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quadrifoglio Verde’s 1.75-litre unit.
US versions of the 500X are supplied with a 160-horsepower 1.4 turbo. That’s the same as in the 500 Abarth. So something with a lot more poke will definitely be required. Remember that the MINI JCW Countryman offers nearly 220 bhp and the Nissan Juke Nismo RS weighs in with similar figures from its 1.6 turbo.
The spy video released this week was by Italian publication Car Passion. The magazine suggests, as above, that the 1750 TBI 16V engine from the Giulietta will be used. The unit has also found success in the Alfa Romeo 4C sports car.
That would mean the car would come with around 240 bhp, putting it squarely in the pocket rocket bracket. Such technology and performance wouldn’t come cheap, but enthusiastic owners are already happy to pay for true quality when buying 595 and 695 models.
Speaking purely speculatively, Abarth could reveal the Fiat 500X Abarth at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. That could mean sales in Europe kicking off in late 2015 or early 2016.
Live in the North East? You can test drive any of the current Abarth range at Richard Hardie showrooms at Silverlink in Newcastle. Just call us on 0191 543 6408 to find out more.