LAS VEGAS -- The Fiat 500 Abarth is a sporty version of the 500 designed to appeal to would-be rally drivers.
The Abarth features a more powerful 160-hp standard engine, a stiffer suspension and better brakes than other Fiat 500s on sale in the United States.
The 1.4-liter, turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine delivers 170 pounds-feet of torque to its low-profile 16-inch Pirelli tires. The suspension is 40 percent stiffer than other Fiat 500s, meaning less roll and pitch when it's pushed hard through corners.
"We believe a small affordable car doesn't have to be a commodity," said Tim Kuniskis, head of the Fiat brand in North America, at a press event here.
Inside, designers have tried to infuse the Fiat 500 with the soul of a rally car. It features a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a turbo meter in the cockpit.
For each purchaser, Fiat will pay for a day at a local speedway to explore the Abarth's capabilities with instruction.
While many subcompacts now feature six-speed manual transmissions, Fiat chose to stay with a five-speed gearbox. Estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg city and 34 highway.
The Abarth will be marketed primarily to men, especially those who see themselves as racers-in-waiting. It arrives in showrooms in April.
Prices start at $22,700 including freight.