What Is The Difference Between Abarth And Fiat?

If you are familiar with Fiat, or even European sports/performance cars in general, then you have probably come across the term “Abarth”.

In 20th Century Italy, Abarth became synonymous with strong and fast (Italians would ask for an “Abarth coffee” for example).

Abarth owners will generally swear by their cars and be very enthusiastic about them. Even Doug “Quirks and Features” Demuro is a fan:

Abarth has always been a fairly niche proposition, so what exactly is the difference between Abarth and Fiat?

In this short edition of Car Facts, we take a look at the differences between Fiat and Abarth.

The History Of Abarth

Abarth was founded in 1949 by Carlo Abarth, who had always had a passion for Motorsport and vehicles since a young age.

Carlo Abarth with some of his weird and wonderful racing creations

In its early days, Abarth produced both custom vehicles built for racing (starting with the 204 A Roadster based on the Fiat 1100) as well as producing tuning kits for existing vehicles to improve their power and performance.

A big breakthrough for Abarth came in 1958, when Fiat released the original 500.

Abarth developed a modified version (the ‘595’ – as per the modern 500 Abarth, and later the 695) that had substantially more power and performance prowess.

This is perhaps Abarth’s most famous creation.

An example of the original 595 Abarth

Over the following years, Abarth continued to develop and release performance kits as well as their own race cars and modified variants.

Abarth Badged vs Genuine Abarth Cars

Where things get a little more complicated to understand is when Fiat acquired Abarth.

This actually occurred in 1971, but for simplicity’s sake we will focus on the late 80s, 90s and early to mid 2000s.

During this time period, Fiat produced a number of vehicles that were badged as Abarth (in case you’re wondering where Abarth’s scorpion logo came from, you can read more about that here).

For example, on this site we have reviewed and done a buyer’s guide for the Fiat Stilo Abarth.

A Fiat Stilo Abarth – this was the top spec Stilo variant and badged as an Abarth, but not technically an Abarth.

These cars were not genuine Abarths (a current Abarth is technically made by a separate subsidiary). Instead, the Abarth badge generally denoted the top performing variant with some performance upgrades.

The Rebirth Of Abarth

In 2007, Abarth was re-established as a separate (but subsidiary) company under Fiat.

From this point, Abarth vehicles became their own unique lineup.

Let’s use the Fiat 500 as an example. This vehicle is available in a number of trims, such as Pop and Lounge. These are all technically made by Fiat.

However, the 500 Abarth is actually made by Abarth, and based on a Fiat 500.

Conclusion – What Is The Difference Between Abarth and Fiat?

To recap, Abarth is a subsidiary of Fiat (technically now FCA Italy SpA) that focuses on the production of performance vehicles for race and road.

Fiat is a separate company that produces the “base” versions of the vehicles upon which Abarth versions are based.

The two companies are very closely interconnected and intertwined.

While we could get into the nitty-gritty of corporate ownership structures etc, in the words of the bard “ain’t nobody got time for that”.

We hope – instead – that this brief overview of Abarth vs Fiat gives you the information you need.


  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

Leave a Comment