You've never seen a 500 like this: a wild and exclusive race-bred Italian pocket rocket that takes the cutesy Fiat 500 base and turns the wick up to extreme
WHAT IS IT?
As the name suggests, it’s a two-seater that just happens to look like a Fiat 500. It’s also the fastest, most exclusive Fiat on the market (technically it’s an Abarth, but it’s based on the 500). Fiat refers to it as “the smallest supercar” on the market.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
About a dozen are coming to Australia – with a big price tag. Our brief drive was a rare opportunity to sample what could become a collector’s item.
There really aren’t any direct rivals because no one has been as crazy as the Italians in dreaming up a car like this. Fiat would like you to think something like a Lotus Elise could be on the same shortlist. But let’s be more realistic and say it’s more likely to be a Volkswagen Golf R, or a modified Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ. Or even a Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Fun and feisty but super-expensive and more a track warrior than a daily tourer. You’d have to be a hard-core 500 fan.
PLUS: Chunky and funky design; rorty exhaust note; optional dog-ring transmission
MINUS: Price, price and price; oh, and it’s fairly impractical
THE WHEELS REVIEW
WHEN it comes to exclusivity, you can forget the latest two-door Bentley or Lamborghinis. The Abarth 695 Biposto out-exclusives the lot.
About 10 are destined for Australia, each with a price tag ranging from $65,000 to as much as $100,000, depending on which options you’ve decided to tack on to the fastest, most hyper Fiat 500 ever built.
Like the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari, the Biposto gets a feisty 1.4-litre turbo, but there’s a whisker more power than that former 500 range-topper, for a grand total of 140kW. Hardly explosive outputs, then.
But it’s the work done on light-weighting the tiny two-door that’s helped shave its 0-100km/h sprint down the best part of a second, to a claimed 5.9 seconds. Impressive.
Gone are the Xenon headlights and fog lights. The radio, too, has been left on the shelf. And the rear seats are missing, inspiring the car’s Biposto (two-seat) name.
Fiat claims a dry weight of 997kg, slotting neatly below the tonne, though the kerb weight will sound less sexy, going into four figures.
Our taste test was just that – short and sweet. It involved a lap of the Balocca proving ground near Fiat’s home base in Turin. We’re talking a handful of kilometres, every one of which we did at maximum attack.
Out of the pit lane, the throaty Akrapovic exhaust (complete with titanium pipes) sends a beefy growl through the sparse cabin. Lift off and it burbles and cracks on the overrun.
Performance, too, is punchy. The familiar four-pot is loaded with meaty mid-range, enough to get the Pirellis fighting for traction out of tight corners.
Row it through the gears, though, and the speedo soon sails past 200km/h, at which point aerodynamics are having their say and slowing forward progress.
Sizeable Brembo brakes (for a little car) bite hard and can have the tail feeling light with a desperate lunge into a tightening right-hander. The electronics chime in to keep things vaguely pointing straight and the little two-seater scrabbles around.
One thing that hasn’t been improved, though, is the seating position. You’re perched up high and feel every rock-and-roll as the Fiat darts – athletically – from one corner to the next.
It’s not the only thing wrong, especially once you glance at the price tag.
Ultimately, there are slicker ways to go faster for the same money, but you may not turn as many heads, or have quite as much fun doing it.
Model: Abarth 695 Biposto
Engine: 1368cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 140kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 250Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 997kg (dry)
Price: $65,000 (est.)
On sale: Now
Who do you think deserves to win the 2017 COTY title? Cast your vote for a chance to win $1,000.
Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.