First Drive: Fiat 500 Abarth
After getting the urge to open our normally underused wallets following a weekend in Renault's Twingo Gordini, we thought it only fair that we spend a little time with its closest rival – the Fiat 500 Abarth.
At £14,155, the Abarth is nearly a grand cheaper than the Renaultsport Twingo with the fancy paintjob (£15,010), but more expensive than the entry-level version with the Cup chassis.
There is less choice with the Fiat; if you go for the Abarth you get all the kit that comes as standard. But this equipment and the extra interior embellishments are really rather nice.
A leather-trimmed steering wheel, climate control and turbo boost gauge are all found inside, while the exterior gets a body kit with side skirts and a rear spoiler and 16-inch alloys. Finishing off the look is a series of stickers – including a scorpion on the bonnet – that mark the Abarth out as something different from the rest of the 500 range.
The Abarth's ride means it is certainly not something that will appeal to anyone who has joints or fillings which would object to being shaken around – it is firm and definitely set up for a spirited drive. This means it is closer to the road than the standard 500 and certainly a lot more enjoyable through the corners.
Sadly something that is not much lower is the driver's seat. Given that many younger or taller drivers instantly drop the seat down when they get behind the wheel, the whole thing is still set a good inch or two higher than it should be.
However, this doesn't distract too much from what is a very entertaining car to nip around in, even more so when you press the addictive Sport button on the dashboard. This sharpens up the throttle response, and turns the little gearshift indicator in the turbo gauge into a redline gear change light.
Switch sport mode off and it becomes a fuel-saving indicator, flashing and nagging you to change up when you are barely past 1,500 revs. It is so insistently irritating that we left the car in Sport mode the majority of the time. But truth be told that was an excuse more than anything.
On paper the ability to switch into a fuel saving mode should work in the Abarth's favour against its more one-track minded rivals, but we still aren't sure that the Twingo wouldn't get the nod if it was a case of picking one or the other. Both are great cars, but the pared-down package, marginal handling superiority and smaller price tag of the entry-level Twingo would probably win the day.