FIRST DRIVE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

With the in­tro­duc­tion of the Abarth 500 Esseesse (SS), Fiat’s cheeky lit­tle 500 city car has de­vel­oped into a play­thing with sting that jus­ti­fies the iconic Abarth scor­pion logo

PETER BARN­WELL

barn­wellp@ cum­ber­land­news­pa­pers.

com.au More at home on the track than the road, Fiat’s Esseesse has more power than most WITH the in­tro­duc­tion of the Abarth 500 Esseesse (SS), Fiat’s cheeky lit­tle 500 has grown a sting that jus­ti­fies the scor­pion logo.

It’s a prod­uct of Fiat Mo­tor­sport and Per­for­mance divi­sion for­merly known as Abarth, which has a his­tory with Fiat and Fiat sub­sidiaries go­ing back to 1952.

Abarth (pro­nounced AyBart) was started by a car-mad Aus­trian named Carlo Abarth.

He was re­spon­si­ble for a swag of highly suc­cess­ful race cars in mo­tor­sport dis­ci­plines in­clud­ing rally, sports car rac­ing and even open-wheel­ers.

Per­haps his most fa­mous ef­fort was the 1957 Abarth 500— the Bam­bino with the rear en­gine hatch open for ex­tra cool­ing. Many a mo­tor rac­ing ca­reer was kick-started be­hind the wheel of this ridicu­lously quick tid­dler-size car with an en­gine seem­ingly hang­ing out the back.

The name Abarth 500 was res­ur­rected last year along with the even more hairychested Esseesse model, which is what we get here.

Though a size smaller, Esseesse goes in against stove­hot competition in the form of VW’s Polo GTi and pint-size hotrods from Alfa and oth­ers.

The Esseesse is claimed to be more mo­tor­sport ori­ented than these cars, more of a track day toy with race com­po­nents

lib­er­ally used through­out.

VALUE Though on pa­per the five-speed man­ual Esseesse looks the goods, it’s priced up at $34,990 plus on-roads, nearly eight grand more than the Polo GTi, which has more power and torque, a seven-speed DSG gear­box, quicker ac­cel­er­a­tion and a roomier in­te­rior. On this ba­sis alone, the Esseesse is likely to strug­gle. But it does have plenty of kit to sweeten the deal: you get a de­cent au­dio sys­tem, cli­mate­con­trol air­con­di­tion­ing, elec­tric win­dows, seven airbags, 17-inch al­loys, Blue&Me hands-free com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem and hill holder.

TECH­NOL­OGY As the Esseesse is all about per­for­mance, per­haps the most im­por­tant piece of elec­tronic trick­ery is its switch­able Torque Trans­fer Con­trol, an ad­vanced elec­tronic sys­tem that repli­cates the ef­fects of a lim­ited slip dif­fer­en­tial on the front driv­ing wheels to en­sure max­i­mum driver en­gage­ment and safety. The sys­tem lim­its un­der­steer, en­hances cor­ner­ing turn in’’ and main­tains sta­bil­ity on bumpy corners.

Other clever stuff in­cludes a so­phis­ti­cated sta­bil­ity con­trol sys­tem that doesn’t in­trude dur­ing fast cor­ner­ing and du­aldrive elec­tric power-steer­ing of­fer­ing light feel at slow speeds and more re­sis­tance at high speeds.

The 1.4-litre turbo en­gine fea­tures twin in­ter­cool­ers and the en­gine it­self is not a Mul­tiAir unit in­creas­ingly used by Fiat/Alfa. In­stead, it’s from the "Fire" fam­ily with twin cams. Power out­put is a sub­stan­tial 118kW with 230Nm on tap from 2750rpm. Qual­ity in­ter­nal com­po­nents are used in the en­gine in­clud­ing forged pis­tons and rac­ing con­rods that are de­signed to cope with con­tin­ued heavy use. The turbo is a Ja­panese IHI unit.

DE­SIGN A wheel at each cor­ner, short wheel­base, tall-boy styling, low ride height— get the pic­ture? It’s a Fiat 500 on roids, a rocket-pow­ered roller­skate al­beit a cute one.

The Esseesse re­tains its fourseater ca­pac­ity and has pres­ence on the road though the white liv­ery is miss­able.

It’s rel­a­tively easy to drive with sim­ple con­trols al­though you can ac­ci­den­tally press the clutch and brake ped­als at the same time due to the cramped pedal box. We couldn’t see the gear change/econ­omy mode in­di­ca­tor be­cause it’s not bright enough. The boot is tiny— one medium-size suit­case only and per­haps some soft lug­gage

‘‘ stuffed around it. Big doors mean easy front seat ac­cess and head­room is not an is­sue.

SAFETY In­her­ently safe thanks to finely honed dy­nam­ics, the Esseesse also fea­tures seven air bags, sports sta­bil­ity con­trol, brake as­sist, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing and hill holder in its safety arse­nal. It scores a five-star crash rat­ing in Euro­pean NCAP test­ing.

DRIV­ING The Esseesse is hard as the hobs of hell on a bumpy road — jig­gle city to the point where your teeth could rat­tle loose. But the nasty lit­tle beast comes into its own once you aim it at some corners. Here the Esseesse shines as it has a kart-like feel rem­i­nis­cent of theM­ini Cooper S John Cooper Works model, which costs a whole lot more.

The tricky dif­fer­en­tial keeps it point­ing the right way and al­lows ridicu­lously quick cor­ner­ing. Boot the right pedal and it rock­ets out the other side ac­com­pa­nied by a raunchy ex­haust cackle. We couldn’t pro­voke un­der­steer de­spite front-wheel drive and co­pi­ous torque avail­able vir­tu­ally from idle speed.

The steer­ing is sharp and re­spon­sive as are the brakes, which don’t fade even un­der con­tin­ued abuse.

But who drives their car like this ev­ery day? No­body. That’s why the Esseesse should only be con­sid­ered as a week­end

toy’’ that can be trot­ted out for a Sun­day morn­ing head­clearer or a day at the race track.

You couldn’t live with it day to day.

Pocket rocket: The nasty lit­tle beast comes into it­sown once you aim at some corners

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.