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Fiat may really build a 500X Abarth, but will anyone buy it?

2016 Fiat 500X
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Mini has done an impressive job of turning one model into a full line of vehicles, and Fiat seems to be trying to catch up with its 500. It already has hardtop and convertible versions of the original hatchback, plus four-door 500L and 500X variants. But what about performance?

Fiat is considering applying its sporty Abarth brand to the 500X crossover, according to Automotive News (subscription required). It’s part of an overall plan to grow Abarth that also includes adding dealerships that will eventually sell a total of three Abarth models, and doubling global sales. A 500X Abarth would also give Fiat a rival to the Mini Countryman JCW and Nissan Juke NISMO RS.

That all makes for a solid case on paper, but then there’s the question of who will actually buy this thing. While the subcompact crossover segment is booming, small sporty crossovers are still fairly esoteric. It’s hard to sneer at a new performance model, but it’s even harder to plunk down the cash for one you really don’t want. And with two established players in the segment (the aforementioned MINI and Nissan), Fiat will have to fight for a piece of a small pie.

The 500X Abarth isn’t the only new piece of sporty Fiat news, though. The carmaker says its still planning an Abarth version of the new 124 Spider. Along with the 500 and 500X, that would give Abarth the three-model lineup it’s reportedly looking for. Abarth even plans to take the 124 Spider racing, and not just any type of racing.

Fiat reportedly plans to campaign the 124 Spider in the World Rally Championship. Known as WRC for short, this series is known for high-powered, all-wheel drive compacts like the Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, both of which were developed specifically for the series. So how will a little rear-wheel drive roadster fair?

Fiat did not offer any specific details, but WRC cars have to be fairly close to the production vehicles they’re based on. A rear-wheel drive car hasn’t won the championship in decades, so Fiat may have to find a workaround for that. Fiat itself was last a major player in the WRC in the 1980s, with the 131 Abarth.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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