GOLF GTI VS. RENAULT CLIO R.S. TROPHY
Both pack a punch, but who wins the tale of the tape?
WHEN IT COMES TO DESIGN, THE ABARTH IS A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE WHERE CUTE MEETS SPORTY. AND WE MEAN, REALLY SPORTY. BERNIE HELLBERG STRAPPED ON THE BABY BOOMER AND TOOK IT FOR A RUN IN THE COUNTRY.
“Cute yet sporty”, when did that become a thing? Back in the day when men were men and everything else was irrelevant, sports cars were big brutes that breathed fire and farted flames. If it ain’t got a V8, it ain’t got nothing!
Have we fallen so far down the rabbit hole that sports cars now have to be tiny, tinny, and in some cases, terrible?
The unlikely hero that has come to save us all from motoring boredom, is a little-known creation from Fiat-derived Abarth, the cute yet sporty Abarth 595 Competizione. A yellow one, no less.
DESIGNED TO IMPRESS
It’s a strange paradox, but the Abarth is designed in a way that is unique, and it certainly doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen on South African roads before. Except, of course, the Fiat 500 on which it is based.
Not much smaller than a Kia Picanto, but significantly wider and lower, of course, the Competizione is curvaceous and enticing. And in its racy yellow garb, the 595 draws crowds of onlookers wherever you go. It’s massive 18” alloy wheels, which can only be described with one word that starts with an “s” and ends with “exy”, are one of the key factors that sell me on the overall look of the car.
The Fiat 500 is also already a cute design, but the added muscle that the 595 Competizione carries – in terms of its flared wheel arches and massive alloys lends it an endearing quality that would likely see both Starsky and Hutch swoon (okay, perhaps just a little grin) over its purposeful design.
BUTCH ON THE ROAD
The 595 is as good-looking inside as it is outside. The retro feel of everything from the radio controls to the pop-up sport indicator reminds of the Fiat 500’s heritage. With added zest, of course, as this is a sports car after all.
Two interior touches impressed me specifically: the flat-bottom steering wheel and the firm yet supportive sporty bucket seats.
Perfectly-sized for added grip (the suede/leather combo covering the wheel also helps) when chucking the little Italian through corners, the steering wheel also houses controls for the infotainment system and on-board computer.
As mentioned, the 595’s seats are pretty firm, but they do well to contain their occupants when spirited driving is called for. One gripe though, the seats are not height adjustable, and if you are anything taller than 1.8 m you might find the roof lining (and the door arch) just a little too close to your noggin for comfort.
Performance is brisk, if not mind blowing. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.4-litre 16-valve engine, which thanks to a larger turbo and a high-performance engine control unit, makes 107 KW of power, all sent to the front wheels.
While that may not sound like too many horses are unleashed in the steroidal Cinquecento, the car weighs a mere 1,035 kg, making the power-to-weight ratio a respectable 103 Watts per kilogramme. That’s almost as much as a Volkswagen Polo GTI. Fiat claims that the 595 will do the zero to 100 km/h run in 7.8 seconds, not too shabby, and combined with the animated soundtrack from the Abarth’s race-tuned exhaust and the overall experience is rather thrilling.
The Abarth 595 Competizione is somewhat of an acquired taste, especially if you’re used to the roominess of most other (four-door) hot hatches in this segment. But there’s something special about it that cannot be ignored. It will leave you grinning from ear to ear with every press of the start button, and beyond.