If a test of a car’s ability to stand out is people taking photos as you pass by, then the Abarth 500 Esseesse (pronounced ‘S.S’.) passes with flying colours.
A racy body kit, 12-spoke 17” alloys, signature stripes and those tiny scorpion badges make a visual statement. But it is what’s under the skin that lets this sporty version of Fiat’s tiny 500 walk the talk.
With some 44kW more power than the standard 500, and maximum torque of 230Nm is on tap at the flick of a ‘Sport’ button, straight-line performance is relatively brisk. But more impressive is the Esseesse’s handling competence and grip levels that allow maximum momentum along a twisty, serpentine back road to be maintained. Some of this is due to smart electronics, such as a Torque Transfer Control that acts much like a limited slip differential, but much can be attributed to the well-sorted suspension.
For every action there’s a reaction, however, and the same stiff springs and damping and low clearance make for a harsh ride over our rougher roads.
At $7000 more than arch-rival VW Polo GTi, the Abarth is no bargain buy, but it is way, way more visible and individual.
Inside, a thick rimmed, grippy flat bottomed steering wheel, leather bound gear knob, sports seats and aluminium trimmed pedals all add to the sporty ambiance.