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Fiat 500 Abarth Esseesse driven
Driven November 2011
The Esseesse is the hotter version of the hotter version of the Fiat 500 convertible. In theory, it should cure all our gripes with the fun-but-flawed standard Abarth 500C: more power (up 23bhp to 158bhp), uprated dampers and a proper five-speed manual gearbox replacing the Abarth's abysmal paddle-shifter.
The new 'box is all good. The rest of the upgrades... not so much.
The lower-riding, stiffer-sprung Abarth hops around on bad roads, refusing to settle. Find an ivory-smooth country road and it's enthusiastic, but on British tarmac it spends its life clanging around in permanent agitation.
The 1.4-litre turbo engine is similarly fraught. The 500 boasts turbo lag of Saab Viggen vintage. Bury the throttle, and there's time for you to pen your last will and testament as the 500 fills its lungs before whanging up the road.
Flawed it may be, but the Esseesse is tough to hate. No Abarth - particularly not the 500C - is an object lesson in understatement, and the Esseesse's upgrades are almost worth it for the jabbering exhaust note alone. However, as you can now spec the standard Abarth 500C with this manual 'box, that should be the hot 500C of choice.