For a car that's getting rather long in the tooth, the Abarth 500 isn't half doing well against its rivals. Ford's Fiesta ST has a base that's almost a decade younger, is cheaper and offers greater overall performance at both ends of the spectrum. Yet love for the 500 lineage is apparently unaffected by all that stuff, the arrival of new contenders having done no harm to the draw of the pretty looks and Italian cool passed down to the latest 595/695 models. People fall for an Abarth at first sight - and it's easy to see why, when variants like the recent 595 Esseesse can pull off stickers and white wheels so well.
There's more than just good looks, of course, the combination of a peppy turbocharged engine, rorty exhaust note and dinky dimensions giving the Abarth a miniature racer character not dissimilar - you would assume - to that provided by the original Mini Cooper S. The VW Up GTI has succeeded in providing a similar combination of traits with added German polish. But it's seemingly not been to the detriment of the 500's reputation. So confident is Abarth in its ageing product that it still pumps out near-£30k specials like the 70th anniversary model. Although in truth, the platform itself feels pretty dated, with PH's time in the Esseesse during the summer dominated by its brittle, unforgiving ride.
Still, as a compact package to blast about in, there's unquestionably considerable appeal left in the 500 base. The 1.4 four-cylinder engine feels much stronger than its size would suggest, the tiny footprint makes the car naturally nimble and given the short overhangs of its body, hammering around narrow country lanes is easy work. It might not be the most rewarding driver's machine these days, but there's plenty of entertainment to be had in Abarth's little hot hatch.
Used prices reflect this fun nature, as the cheapest Abarth 500 advertised on PH's classifieds is up for £5,020 - and there are three others that sneak under the £6k mark. That's pretty good going for a model as common and as old as this (there are more than 5,000 500s on UK roads, and that excludes the later 595s and 695s that have succeeded it). Three of the four cars under six grand are between nine and ten years old, although this one has covered only 37,600 miles, so its age is somewhat countered by lower-than-average use.
The ad mentions that its "two lady owners" have kept it in "excellent conditions", barring some scuffs on the alloys, and the photos certainly back the suggestion of an easy life. Although there's no mention of the optional raucous Monza exhaust that we love so much; that'd certainly be PH's first recommended upgrade were it on our shopping list. But by and large, the car's specification is a good one, not that you can really go wrong with a 500 in red on silver Scorpion alloys. The car looks as good today as it would have in 2010 - and the lack of significant aesthetic changes for its successors means there's little design difference between it and the latest versions, which will only heighten the appeal. And proves that they rather nailed the look from the off.
Still, it's true that objectively speaking the Fiesta ST - even younger versions of which can be had for little more than £5.5k - looks like the better value for money choice. But when your heart is set on an Abarth 500 model, there's often nothing else that'll do. Hence the world's continuing love for this characterful Italian pocket rocket.
SPECIFICATION - ABARTH 500
Engine: 1,368cc, 4-cyl, turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 135@5,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 152@3,000rpm
First registered: 2010
Price new: £13,500 (2009)
Price now: £5,550