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Exactly none of the Abarth 595 50th Anniversary’s 299 production run is ever likely to be driven on track. Except today, where two are being thrashed mercilessly by European hacks at Fiat’s Balocco proving ground in Italy. That means a skipped lunch for a reasonable run in it while everyone else is munching pasta. A few laps down, however, we’re considering popping back for the linguine. Blame the TCT gearbox; the yawning gaps between asking for a gear and it arriving rob the car of any sort of flow. At all times, but especially on track.
Output is boosted to 178bhp from the 1.4-litre T-jet turbo 4cyl engine, so those gearchanges are needed a bit quicker than in the standard car. However, a single lap in the regular 595 158bhp model with the 5spd manual ‘box underlines it’s more fun with less power - and more pedals. The Anniversary model boasts a 6.9secs 0-62mph time, which isn’t quite junior supercar league, as Abarth claims, and for all the company’s talk of exclusivity and uniqueness, we’ve been here before.
Specifically in red, with the 695 Tributo Ferrari; and 2012 opened up with the drop-topped 695 Maserati Edition. The 299-run Abarth might be rarer, but for good reason, as the Abarth name alone is not able to create quite the same buzz. Some retro-inspired badges, a ‘tattoo’ scorpion on its bonnet and matte white paint identify the 50th, but otherwise the specification reads identically to its more glamorous predecessors. Amusingly too, and despite Abarth’s protestations that it’s a brand in its own right, the 50th’s badge returns ‘Fiat’ to the bootlid.
The dual-mode exhaust does its shouty best to remind you that this is a more special little runaround, but the steering’s wilful lack of feel and parking-light weighting does little to inspire confidence. Brake hard, and the Brembo calipers grab the discs strongly, though it all feels a touch absurd - particularly as it slews to the driver’s side unless you’ve an equally heavy passenger.
Then there’s the price, £29,850. Way. Too. Much. If you really want to spend £30k on a Fiat 500, then delivery-mile 695 Tributo Ferraris are available from burnt-fingered speculators. If you don’t like red and supercar connotations, then the 595 50th Anniversary is the one, though you’d be certifiable not to go for the standard 160bhp 595 Abarth. Or a Mini.