Crunching the Performance Numbers

Crunching the Performance Numbers

When reviewing sports cars, horsepower is usually the first number talked about. The higher the number, the higher the rank. However, power isn’t everything. All the power in the world won’t matter if you’re trying to push around a four ton brick house. Weight, as a metric, is often ignored. This is unfortunate, because the ratio of power to weight is probably the most telling number of a car’s performance capability.

The tiny 101 horsepower engine inside the Fiat 500 doesn’t seem like much, until you realize the car weighs just over a ton. For comparison, the Cadillac Escalade weighs about 3.5 tons. To get that kind of weight onto the highway in a reasonable amount of time, you need a 400+ horsepower engine. The Fiat only needs a fraction of that power to feel sporty.

A Close Look at the Numbers

So how does the power and weight of a Fiat 500 compare to a other cars? Well, even the Sport version is actually quite slow. Weighing in at 2,363 lbs (according to Edmunds), with just 101 hp, gives it a ratio of 85 horsepower per (US) ton, or hp/t. Sadly, that is actually 3 hp/t less than a Toyota Prius, a car hated by auto enthusiasts worldwide. To compare, a 2011 Porsche 911 Turbo has 289 hp/t. You could however, buy seven Fiat 500s for the price of the Porsche, so you certainly pay a premium for speed.

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Enter the Real Contender

All this talk about the base Fiat 500 is moot anyway, considering we will have the Abarth available in 2012. Hopefully weighing close to the same amount, the Abarth should come with at least 170 hp (and possibly 185). Since none of the specifications have been released, we’ll have to guess at the exact numbers.

We’ll be using the reasonable 170 hp for the power. For the weight, let’s look at historical data. We know the Fiat 500 Sport weighs 2363 lbs. The European Abarth is somewhere between 2000 and 2300 pounds, depending on the source. Since the 500 added roughly 100 pounds for additional safety features when it came to the states, its likely the Abarth will need to gain just as much. That would put it at roughly 2400 lbs.

Based on those numbers, the power to weight ratio of the US Fiat 500 Abarth would be 138 hp/t. Not bad for $21k!

How about the competition?

The closest competitor available in the states is the Mini Cooper S. For 2012, it is heavier than the Abarth by about 200 pounds, but also gains 11 hp. Unfortunately that’s not enough to make up for the extra weight, putting the Mini behind the Fiat at 136 hp/t. That is only a 2 hp/ton separation, but a win is a win. If the Abarth manages to come in a bit lighter than estimated, or with a bit more power, the margin of victory will be even larger.

For comparison sake, I ran the numbers on a few other cars that I’ve been cross shopping lately:

  • 2008 Mitsubishi Evolution X
    291 hp, 3514 lbs., 166 hp/t
  • 2009 Nissan 370Z
    332 hp, 3232 lbs., 205 hp/t
  • 2011 Ford Mustang GT
    412 hp, 3605 lbs., 229 hp/t

In terms of bang for your buck, the Mustang wins hands down. However the Fiat 500 Abarth will provide an exciting amount of performance for a relatively low sticker price.

  • Maseratiguy

    What about brakes and handling? These are also “performance” stats that need discussion. Speed w/o control is just a hot rod.


      Definitely true that handling warrants another post/discussion. However it becomes harder to compare handling as pure numbers. Obviously you have skid pads and track times, but there are fewer sources for those kinds of stats that can be used for apples to apples comparisons (the same driver on the same course with the same tires in the same weather, etc.).

  • Gumby4Mayor

    hoping for 185….

  • greg mayer

    Damn my saab was 119 hp/t
    Can i get the Abarth in convert


      I think it is pretty likely they will bring the Abarth 500c at some point. They already have the Lounge (base 500 convertible), so I don’t see why not.

  • Hhughes1

    A Mustang GT at 3162 pounds? Not even close.


      Wow, you’re right, that should be 3605 lbs, and 229 hp/t, which I’ve corrected in the post. Not sure where I got that original number for the weight. Thanks for pointing that out.

    • Brianp927

      Sorry, a new Mustang GT weights in at 3650 lbs depending on equipment. But with 315 HP, a 11.58 pounds per HP.

  • Omahhum

    You should include the Mazdaspeed3 in this report. It weighs about 2700 lbs and has some 260 horses. It costs less than the Mini S and has more power, speed, and torque, and in my opinion handles much better. (IMO, the Mazda 3S handles better, too, and has better pick-up than the Mini S.)


      While I agree the Mazdaspeed 3 is a worthy comparison, where exactly are you getting the 2700 lbs figure from? Everywhere I’ve seen lists it at about 3200

    • Brianp927

      Your Mazdaspeed 3 weighs in at nearly 3200lb. Still a 12 lbs per HP is very strong.

  • Peter Vella

    New car buyers expect a lot of ammenities on modern day cars. Some of these are what are adding weight though. I suggest there be two models of Abarth 500 in North America. The “Lusso” would have all the bells and whistles. A limited edition “Super Leggera” would be a stripped down performance version. Both Porsche and Ferrari offer similar choices. The Super Leggera would be in keeping with Abarths of days gone by.
    Ultimate fantasy however, would be a 90 degree V4 made from two TwinAir  900 cc high output turbo engines (with 105 bhp [each]). The low output turbo models (85 bhp) are supposed to be a hoot to drive, so its big brother should improve on that. Do the math.    


      I would love to see a stripped down version of the Abarth! But I imagine they won’t want to further segment their market until the Abarth is a proven success in the US first.

      • Mike Space

        Also would love a Super Leggera version. Don’t need electric windows, remote locking, 24 speakers, etc. First and only new car I ever bought till now was a 1967 Lancia Fulvia HF. All the extra money went into power and handling, with light seats, interior panels, no hubcaps, no radio, oil temp replacing clock, etc. That’s a bit severe now, but you get the idea. Not about to pay $50k for the 695 though.

  • Tandemnut

    A “stripped” Abarth in the US might force others to do the same. MINI JCW stripped would be nice if they could lose about 400-500 pounds off the car.  And, a stripped Abarth could possibly weigh in under a ton! I have owned 4 MINI Coopers (including a first model year 2002 with supercharger reduction pulley, suspension and exhaust mods), 1 BMW 135i convertible, a Mazdaspeed 3, several GTI’s, a 1969 Karmann Ghia convertible, 2 Miatas, etc.  The Abarth COULD be the most exciting thing to hit the US Market since the intro of the MINI brand in 2002 or even since the 1st Miatas in 1989 or possibly even the original “Rabbit” GTI (forget the year but I think mid-80’s). Lets hope they get it right for us, the enthusiasts.

  • Cornercarver82

    Bring the Essess with you Abarth.


      Yes! I’m hoping that’s either a combined, or optional package!

  • Brianp927

    Sorry, try 142 hp. Yes that’s all. Still at 2300 lbs = 16lbs per HP. 14lbs per HP will get you 14 second 1/4 mile times. Sure 170 HP would be super but hard to get from 1.4 liters.

  • Apiacentini

    Dose any one know when the Abarth will be coming to the U.S i am such a fan of these little pythons 


      Hopefully spring 2012. Stay tuned to this site for news.

    • Anon

      Stupid little cars for stupid little people

      • Mike

        Sort of like stupid big fat SUVs for stupid big fat people?

  • Doc_GMed

    Don’t forget the evo 8 at 185 hp/t

  • mago11

    170 HP?
    I don’t thinks so… I think it come with the 135hp Multi-Air engine.
    Whay should we have more power than Europe verison?

    • Frank Elliott Schneller

      It is 170hp and 170lbs of tork for the US. Small cars dont sell well here, power is an incentive for the american market.


      It should have more power to make up for the extra weight it carries to meet US safety standards. I really think anything less than 150 is going to be a disappointment.


    That’s the European version. Chrysler has a 170 hp turbo multiair engine they can use for the Abarth.


    Looks like the output is going to be 160hp for the US, but they may be offering a 200hp upgrade! Take that Mini!


      weight is also up to 2,533 unfortunately :(

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