Test: Abarth 695 Esseesse Collectors Edition: how downforce can change your life

“Esseesse” is synonymous with supercharging in the Abarth language. At least, that’s how it was launched back in 1964, when Carlo Abarth added these letters to the 695 tag, referring to the little mill increased displacement that was then found at the back of the ubiquitous 500.

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Nowadays, the  well-known 180 BHP 1.4 T-Jet lump is located under the front bonnet. Today’s 695 SS claim to fame is down to its exclusive two colours: Scorpion Black and Campovolo Grey. The Italians know perfectly how to play the exclusivity card : production will be restricted to just 695 units for each colour. This means a total of only 1,390 units. Inside, the Uconnect multimedia system uses a small 7-inch screen. The dashboard is nicely covered in Alcantara while a few fake carbon fibre elements underline its stylish look. The « One of 695 » tag is even embroidered in the Sabelt buckets headrests. Although they are positioned a bit on the highish side, they offer excellent support. However, the driving position is pretty awkward for tall people like me (1,86m) as the steering column only offers a reduced adjustment range.

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I like it

Honestly, we just love this 695 Esseesse look, with its twin hump aluminium bonnet (25% lighter than other Abarths), its specific 17-inch wheels and its Akrapovic exhaust system, which makes it 10 kg lighter than the 595 Competizione. This doesn’t change anything as far as accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h is concerned : the sprint still requires 6″7. However, the Esseesse  accelerates one tenth of a second faster (15″1 compared to 15″2) on the 400m run. Finally, top speed clinches 225 km/h thanks to the imposing adjustable rear spoiler. It was seen before on the 695 Anniversario but we hadn’t tested it before.

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Quite clever

This imposing and adjustable rear spoiler is a true life-changer. In its highest position, it really sticks the Italian-registered baby rocket to the ground. It perfectly matches and second the Pirelli Sottozero tyres that were fitted to it.  The 695 Esseesse proved was always imperious, even in the most demanding road conditions. We had never driven such a serene and composed Abarth in the past. No more hopping around, no more hesitations and unexpected changes of direction. We had a great time behind the wheel and even though the Abarth is getting a bit long in the teeth, we enjoy this kind of sporty little rocket. Even more so that they are unfortunately disappearing fast from car makers’ catalogues.

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I don’t like it

We already mentioned the unsuitable driving position for tall drivers , let’s just mention the reduced rear space and too tiny trunk load space. However, let’s not forget the Abarth is based on a small city car made to go faster. Therefore, these are no hidden flaws: the fans of this hot-blooded Italian car like them for their idiosyncrasies!

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Why I buy it

We never enjoyed an Abarth so much as this 695 Esseesse that came from Italy just for us. We drove it in cold and gloomy weather and never lost our smile. It was literally glued to the ground thanks to  its large rear spoiler and perfect Koni suspension set up (using frequency selective damping). Its five-speed manual gearbox takes punishment with delight and turns this nerve ball into a lethal weapon: riding on densely populated tortuous roads was real sheer fun. Something as rare and elusive as French tennis players making it to the final level of a Grand Slam tournament.

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Why I don’t buy it

The first thing that sticks to your mind  when it comes to signing the order form is the price :  €33,990 is quite a lot. However, you’ll own a rather exclusive machine that may well become a collector’s item in the near future. Then,  this little 1.4 lump has a very greedy turbo and it guzzles petrol like much meaner machines. Obviously, it will be down to you and how you will use your right foot… and you should use your brain as well to monitor your lust . The exhaust note is pretty addictive, especially when you use the little scorpion button on the dashboard : it modifies the exhaust note while also making the engine much more responsive at the same time. Needless to say, we loved using it! The small petrol tank (35 litres) even eased our pain, knowing it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to fill it up. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain – Pictures: Pierre Fontignies)

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