DRIVEN: ABARTH 695 TRIBUTO FERRARI
Ferrari is well known for branding up any old bit of merchandise it thinks it can flog to its fans, Abarth 500s included
Launched to great fanfare in 2010 as a highly exclusive take on the Abarth 500 theme, by August last year Fiat had in fact taken orders for nearly 1,700 examples. So not actually that exclusive. And less so now there's a Maserati branded version too. And somewhat pricey, at over £30K. Hot hatch exotica for the discerning petrolhead or brand prostitution in the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi league? PH got its hands on one to find out.
The predictable truth of the matter is it's more Ferrari inspired than Ferrari built. Not that there's anything wrong with using the Ferrari name to your advantage, but Fiat has asked big money for what is essentially a bog-standard Abarth 500 1.4-litre turbo that's had a bit of a tickle to produce another 20hp for what the spec sheet coyly describes as "over 180hp".
In the metal there is an unmistakable sense this isn't any ordinary 500 after all. Firstly, it's been given a Scuderia Red paint job with a de rigueur dollop of racing stripes, extra venting in the bodywork, carbon door mirrors and a set of 17-inch Corsa Grey alloy wheels. Springs and dampers are 'strengthened' to handle the mighty power and front disc diameter increased to 284mm and gripped by four-pot Brembo calipers to keep it all in check. There's also a variable pressure 'Record Monza' exhaust which, just like a proper Ferrari (OK, not a lot like a proper Ferrari...), increases with volume as the revs rise, in this case beyond 3,000rpm. To further justify the price there are Sabelt leather-clad seats, branded aluminium pedal trimmings and, just behind the steering wheel, shift paddles for the Abarth five-speed semi-automatic Competizione gearbox.
All in all then, it appears to be a serious-looking tool and the smartest Fiat 500 you'll ever likely to sit in.
The engine is torquey enough and readily rasps up to its redline (marked on Jaeger dials, natch), which is good news for acceleration - 0-62mph time is "under" seven seconds - although it does seem to run out of puff beyond 90mph (achieved in a different location from the photos of course - Ed.), which is well below its published top speed of 139mph. The ride is super stiff, which is all well and good if you happen to be ragging a hot lap out of it, but for everyday driving it does become a little irksome. Overall there's feistiness in this car that makes you want to forgive its awful gearbox though.
buy a red Abarth, have it chipped and stick a Ferrari badge on the side. Which, after all, is what Fiat did in the first place.
Thanks to Joe Macarifor the loan of the car.
ABARTH 695 TRIBUTO FERRARI
Engine: 1,368cc turbo 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed automated manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 180@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 185@3,000rpm
Top speed: 139mph
MPG: 43.4mpg (NEDC combined)
Photos: Max Earey