LET’S GO BONKERS

No room for crea­ture com­forts in race replica, PAUL GOVER writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - GEELONG -

FIAT’S “pocket rocket” is mad­ness on four wheels — which why it’s so ap­peal­ing

Bonkers is the word that works best for Abarth 695 Bi­posto.

It’s a bonkers lit­tle car, stripped out, pared down and tightly fo­cused it has only two seats pro­vide its Ital­ian name.

The Bi­posto is the ul­ti­mate Fiat 500 bonkers crazi­ness in­cludes non-syn­chro rac­ing gear­box, per­spex side win­dows, matt grey body­work, lash­ings of car­bon­fi­bre in the cabin and gi­ant (rel­a­tively) brakes wheels.

Even what’s miss­ing adds to its ap­peal — air­con, rear seat even door han­dles are ab­sent. Air vents

fixed, to cut the weight of ad­justers.

It’s hard imag­ine why any­one would want a Bi­posto, es­pe­cially at a min­i­mum of $65,000 with po­ten­tial to spend well in ex­cess of $80,000. Un­til you drive it.

It’s the anti-Camry, so wildly alive it forces Ev­ery gear change “crash” box is a ven­ture into un­known, the turbo power comes on hard and fast, and the cabin quickly be­comes hi-tech sweat­box even with 22C Mel­bourne day. “The peo­ple who have bought Bi­posto love it,” says Fiat Chrysler Aus­tralia mar­ket­ing man Zac Loo.

So far, there are 13 Bi­posto lovers and more still seen the car

want one. The sup­ply from Italy is ex­hausted al­ready.

most bonkers item is “dog ring” gear­box, a five-speed man­ual with no syn­chro­mesh to ease the changes. It’s the sort of thing you usu­ally only find in full-on race cars, or a gi­ant old-school truck.

It’s beau­ti­fully an­odised and chromed, its shift mech­a­nism a gen­uine work of art, just as the rest of the car is trimmed in car­bon-fi­bre that unique to car.

And that’s say­ing lot, when Abarth has al­ready worked up Maserati and Fer­rari “trib­uto” mod­els.

At the heart of the Bi­posto is the same tweaked 1.4-litre turbo four as those cars — making 140kW/250Nm and driv­ing the front wheels — sort of body bits you ex­pect on a race replica road car.

Abarth fans re­call hot rod ver­sions of the orig­i­nal 500 back in

’60s, which were eas­ily iden­ti­fied by boots propped open for en­gine cool­ing.

The scant time I have with the Bi­posto is more than enough.

I set­tle into the race-tight bucket seat and have a ten­ta­tive try of the dog-ring gear­box.

This car is much bet­ter fin­ished than the Abarth at Bathurst but it’s still full-on speed ma­chine.

says it will rip up to 100km/h in 5.9 sec­onds and it feels that way as I give full throt­tle dash through gears. The trick is to change hard fast on the up­shifts, then be su­per-care­ful to match the revs to lower gear down­shifts.

Get it right and lever goes snick-snick be­tween gears, but there are times when graunch­ingly wrong. A lov­ing owner will ad­just rel­a­tively quickly I’d want to be mates with a rac­ing gear­box spe­cial­ist for long-term peace of mind.

The car at­tracts plenty of at­ten­tion in traf­fic and in the ab­sence of au­dio there’s time to think play.

So I blast up down gears, hun­ker through cor­ners — where it grips in­cred­i­bly well and gen­er­ally be­have like a six-year-old with a new BMX.

I don’t have the dol­lars or garage space for Bi­posto, sort of car ev­ery­one should drive once in their life. just like bonkers lit­tle crit­ter, love it.

Price From $65,000

Abarth says it will rip up to 100km/h in 5.9 sec­onds and feels that way as I give full throt­tle dash through the gears. PAUL GOVER

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