We were recently able to drive an Abarth again… There are magic names in automotive history and Abarth is one of them. Just like back in the 50s and 60s, it is still the FIAT 500 that is turned into a little road devil!
(Text : Dimitri URBAIN)
Practise makes (nearly) perfect…
Several small sports cars are still available on the Belgian market (Fiesta ST, Swift, etc.), however there are two that are more iconic than the others: the Mini Cooper S, of course, and… the Abarth 595. The little Abarth even share many features with… the Lotus Elise : both are cute to look at, often wear flashy colours, they are small and nimble, chuckable and nice to drive. They also hide their age and stimulate enthusiasts’ interest through a large number of limited editions related to their brand’s history! The new Abarth range is made up of the 595, the 595 Turismo, the 595 Competizione and the 595 Esseesse. Prices start from 17990€, VAT included!
On the limited edition side, the Scorpione Oro sits along the Monster Energy Yamaha and the 695 70° Anniversario. It retails at € 22,990, once a € 4,500 rebate is taken off its RRP. Production is limited to only 2,000 copies. It can be easily identified by its uniformly black colour and its golden touches: rims, side stripes… just like a “JPS” Lotus ! This limited edition is a tribute to a certain… Autobianchi A112 Abarth Targa Oro- just 150 of them were produced in 1979. The Abarth range is equipped with a 1400 cm3 turbo engine, available in various power levels. The Scoprio Nero makes do with 165 HP é 5.500 RPM… enough to propel it close to 220 km/h and get from 0 to 100 km/h in just over 7 secs. Torque is 230 Nm at 2.250 rpm, allowing it a nice flexibility. Its weight-to-power ratio is far from ridiculous, at 6.4 kg/HP. This boiling engine is associated with a manual or robotized 5-speed gearbox. Our test model was equipped with the latter and we will come back to that later. The chassis receives Koni shock absorbers and roll bars that stick it to the ground. The four-disc braking system, vented up front, is always consistent and easy to adjust through the middle pedal.
Racing atmosphere !
Inside, it is a 500, with the large instrument binnacle facing the driver. The whole exudes a sporty atmosphere. The seats are evocative of those fitted to the 1960s Abarths. The embroidered headrests, are beautiful and give the whole car a special attractiveness. Obviously, they are a bit flawed : their lower part is a bit short and taller people will struggle to find an ideal driving position as the seats won’t go very low. The height adjustment is actually the seat base tilt adjustment. The gold commemorative plate is located between the front seats. The aluminium pedals are obviously present, as is the perfect grip flat steering wheel. On regular 500s, the button on the right of the steering wheel increases steering power, here it changes the character of the car to “Scorpio” mode. Pushing it modifies the car’s behaviour, playing on torque, steering consistency as well as the accelerator pedal’s responsiveness. In the process, the dial on the left, behind the steering wheel becomes more sporty too, as the turbo takes off faster.
In the middle of the dashboard sits a 7’ Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatible touchscreen. When you start the car, the garage door opens and an Abarth comes out! Once cut off, it comes back to the garage and the door closes, that’s too funny! On the hi-fi side, a 480 W Beats Audio system offers the feel of a concert hall. Bluetooth and DAB plugs are also available. Up front, there’s plenty of space, even for taller or larger people while the rear seats are a bit on the narrow side. However, this is a sports car, not a family wagon or even a minivan!
Our test models featured the large opening roof, allowing all passengers to enjoy the sun without too many disadvantages… An old formula, of course, however it oozes charm (that of the 500, of course!) and is much more elegant than the current sunroofs that open going up and back rather than under the roof panel. On top of that, you adjust the opening infinitely! Even folded completely, the hood does not block the view backwards. The only downside is that the reduced trunk opening.
Fun (almost) everywhere
The engine loves to rev and is characterfull, like only an Italian engine can be. By the way, we wouldn’t mind if it was singing a little more… Do not hesitate to rev it, in «Scorpio» mode : fun comes in spades after 3000 tr/ min! The fun is almost everywhere in this car… Almost? Yes, as the automated box spoils the whole thing… Going up or down the gears, it’s very slow, hesitating every time it does so.
Using the pallets improves things a bit but it is clear that this box is really struggling and sometimes proves disconcerting when accelerating. The road behaviour is firm ; it’s OK on clean nice roads but can become a bit tiring on bad ones, playing hide and seek with potholes… Then, it’s a small price to pay for efficiency and composure. The Abarth doesn’t roll and allows for fairly high cornering speeds in complete safety. The steering is quite precise, linear, providing great feeling of the front tyres grip and position.
However, a torque effect is never far away. In “normal” mode, the steering is a tad too far on the light side and less accurate. It’s just good to be used for parking manoeuvres. Fuel consumption is around 9 l/ 100 km if driven in a sporty manner. The brakes are always up to the job, with an easy dosage on the pedal, as is expected of a sports car. It is possible to use less than 7 liters/ 100 km if you put an egg under the right pedal… however, what’s the point of driving and even piloting an Abarth without having sheer fun?
Even if the Abarth is not the fastest, the most comfortable, or the best handling car, it doesn’t matter. The Abarth has its own soul, oozes charm and puts a grin on your face every time you sit behind its wheel; this is the main thing. It’s so charming that it manages to make people forget its small flaws (that awful gearbox!), compared to all the pleasures it brings to its driver! (Pics: Pierre Fontignies)
The new 2021 “Turismo” Abarth The Scorpione Oro plays it loud and even a bit brash. Here, the tone is more luxury and classy. The “Turismo” oozes elegance, it’s quite discreet on the outside, too. On the whole, it works really well with the high performance level of the 595. Here, the seats are leather-covered, they feature a new diamond motif which looks exclusive and chic, especially in the “Helmet Brown” colour. A new «Blu Rally» colour, inspired by the 131 Abarth is available. The new 17” rims are reminiscent of the Lancia Delta Integrale’s of the 1990s…