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Driven — Abarth 695 70th Anniversario

Driven — Abarth 695 70th Anniversario

Adam Workman 5 months ago
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This generation Fiat 500 has been around for nearly 15 years, which is donkey’s years for a car – and yet, Fiat’s shouty cousin Abarth finds plenty of ways to have fun with the pint-sized hot-hatch

Fiat Ego and size: two facets that have come to define machismo through the ages, not least in the context of motoring males of the species. Which makes the teeny-weeny, endlessly cheeky Abarth 695 something of the ultimate ego-popper, particularly on the fast-and-furious, bigger-is-better highways and byways of Dubai.

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During my time with this 70th Anniversario edition of the Fiat 500’s most hyperactive sport-focused brother, this ability to annoy less dextrous drivers is proven on multiple occasions via the medium of flashed headlights. But nowhere is it better demonstrated than when I’m actually chased by one narked BMW 8-Series driver who I’ve zipped past in Sheikh Zayed Road traffic. It’s less invitation to race, more impudent act of attempted bullying in a pointless attempt to repair dented pride. Catch me if you can, fella – there’s not much chance that a motor more than a metre longer and almost twice the weight can be equally nimble in an urban environment.

And that is where you will be happiest in the 695, even if it is a four-wheeled chihuahua straining at the leash for you to take it out for a track day, because it’s truly fabulous for nipping around busy streets with urgency.

On the face of things, this rocket-powered roller skate’s basic stats might not have anybody exclaiming “bellissimo!” in excited Italian, despite it boasting the most powerful engine in its range. Its turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder unit offers top outputs of 180 horsepower and 230Nm, which will push the tiny terror to a maximum of 225km/h and hit 100km/h in 6.9 seconds. But if feels much faster than that – seat-of-the-pants thrills abound when you’re more or less wearing a car.

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The big picture is a pretty one: the 695’s Monza 1958 green livery – a tribute to the colour of the first 500 Abarth – is a real grower, offset by blacked-out 17″ alloys with radiantly red Brembo callipers. The performance exhaust’s four tailpipes provide a parping soundtrack, to the point where you really have little need for the otherwise-impressive Beats sound system, regardless of its ability to otherwise announce you from around corners. It all points to the intended inspiration of company founder Carlo Abarth, a man known for his love of racing exploits.

There are neat exterior details aplenty that give additional hat-tips to the late boss, perhaps the most striking of which is an adjustable spoiler with no less than a dozen positions, finished with a protractor cut-out denoting the maximum angle (up to 60 degrees).

Elsewhere, a sizeable scorpion decal bosses the bonnet, the roof is chequered-flag patterned, and ‘ABARTH’ is subtly written into the lower front grille’s latticework.

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Inside, cutesy character just about emerges triumphant over the slightly ageing base 500’s interior. There’s leather and Alcantara all over the seats and steering wheel, lending touches of class, but elsewhere a few of the hard plastics harking from the 500 could have been given a facelift. The “500” logo above the glovebox should also probably have been lost – in such a special little thing, one additional scorpion badge shouldn’t have broken the bank. 

Those interior irritants do point to how the 695 revs at a weird crossroads between analogue and digital fun – there’s something incongruous about a glossy seven-inch infotainment screen in a car with a spirit drawn from decades before such innovations became standard. That said, you’ll be glad of the distinctly modern air conditioning – sweating through your shirt is so very 20th century.

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One issue that’s harder to lend a positive spin is the fact that, when given the gas, auto upshifts can be ponderous to point where you’re daydreaming about the additional enjoyment a manual gearbox would present. Mercifully, the paddle-shifters do reduce that impact and return driving delights somewhat, allowing your city criss-crossing to largely continue unabated. Given this is also a problem with the comparatively pedestrian 500, however, it’s a downer that might take a full model overhaul to fix.

With a mere 1949 units, nodding to the year Abarth was founded, this limited-edition 695 will be a relatively rare sight on the roads – further cementing its status as a desirably peppy little proposition that will make you smile every time you clamber behind the wheel. Even if your road rivals won’t always be so endeared to it.

Abarth 695 70th Anniversario

1.4-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged | sequential five-speed transmission, front-wheel drive | 180 horsepower at 3,000rpm and 230Nm of torque at 5,500rpm | zero to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds and top speed of 225km/h | from AED139,995

Abarth 695 70th Anniversario
7.5

Summary

Less hot hatch than manic midget, the 695 70th Anniversario is respectful of the past while, just about, measuring up to the requirements of the present day. Best things, small packages and all that.

Total Rating

7.5
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