Something small and wicked this way comes -- and what a treat it is
The Fiat Abarth is fab, funky, fun and economical all at the same time, says Philip Hedderman
Whoever said "you can't have your cake and eat it" was wrong. By cake and eating it, I mean low emissions, fuel economy and blistering performance.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury . . . I give you the Fiat 500 Abarth.
Now, some of you will not be familiar with Abarth, but to motorsport fans it's up there with Williams, McLaren and Cosworth.
In layman's terms, the tuning firm use their racing experience to make rewarding, high-performance road cars at affordable prices. The result, you see before you.
A fab, funky, fun, little flying machine for the man/woman about town. On the outside it looks like a chunkier, more squat retro version of the 500 with scorpion logos replacing the Fiat badge, but it's far more technical than that.
Take heed of the scorpion as it's a warning to the faint hearted which reads "treat with the utmost respect". For inside this cutesy little city hopper beats the heart of a thoroughbred race car.
Climbing into the cockpit you know you've got a serious piece of kit and the first giveaway is the giant rev counter which bottoms out at a massive 8,000rpm (most saloon cars only go to 5,000rpm).
Then, with a turn of the key, the zesty 1.4-litre turbo-charged 135bhp engine barks into life with a throaty rasp more familiar to an Aston Martin or similar V8.
Drop the hammer and she begins to show the sting in her tail -- propelling you to 100kmh in under 7.5 seconds and all the way to 211kmh.
And you needn't feel one bit guilty as it returns a jaw-dropping mpg average in the mid-thirties -- or 6.5L/100km -- hence the €304 road tax.
So with the techno bit out of the way, how does this "small but wicked" 2-door hot hatch handle the day-to-day humdrum of life in general? With remarkable ease, actually.
This is a very capable and comfortable city car. It's zippy and nippy and negotiates pretty much everything you throw at it -- thanks to the feather-light steering.
There are one or two drawbacks, though. Firstly, because the suspension and chassis are so rigid, it makes the ride around town a little choppy, especially over speed bumps which are now becoming an increasing scourge.
The second thing I failed to factor in is LBR Envy. The Abarth is a magnet for LBRs (Little Boy Racers) who just want to be your friend and stare at you like puppies.
Considering the amount of goodies as standard: like air con; electric front windows; seven airbags; 16-inch alloy wheels; superb sound system with CD and MP3 player; and a voice command hands-free communication system, is it any wonder they stare?
Depending on spec the Abarth 500 will cost around €23,000.