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First Drive: Abarth 695C 1.4 T-Jet Biposto 3dr (2014-2017)

£32,855 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£32,855
Brake horsepower
190bhp
Fuel consumption
45.9mpg
0–62 mph
5.90s
CO2
145g/km
Max speed
143Mph
Insurance Group
37U

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Another fast Fiat 500?

Yes, we’ve seen the (deep breath) Abarth 500, esseesse, 595 and Tributo Ferrari, now meet the most extreme Fiat hot hatchback ever. This is the Abarth 695 Biposto.

Is it a full cage-and-carbon job, or just a few stickers?

Very much the former. Abarth’s ambitious plan was to create that old chestnut: the road-going racecar. Specifically, this is pitched as a road-legal version of the 695 Assetto Corse track car, which has its own one-make series of stripped out Abarths in Europe, similar to Renault’s Clio Cup.

That’s a big claim.

The BiPosto drips with track-bred pedigree - but only if you’re prepared to spend big. As standard, your £33k 695 Biposto gets the carbonfibre front apron, bigger rear diffuser and monstrous Akraprovic exhaust, plus the 18-inch Oz wheels, Brembo brakes, bespoke Goodyear tyres and slightly wider arches.

But if you want the carbon pack inside, you’ll need to pay £3,700. The race pack, which gives a second telemetry readout in the middle of the dash where you never look, plus four-point harnesses, is £3,700. On the plus side, you get a helmet thrown in. For £2,990, you can have a ‘124 pack’ which adds aluminium goodies like a featherweight bonnet. Polycarbonate windows? £1,775, ta.

And the headline act: the exposed linkage dog-ring equipped gearbox, which replaces the mushy five-speed manual? That’s £8,500. Add that little lot onto the bonkers £32,955 starting price and you push your mega-Fiat out of Golf R territory and into the £50,000 realm of the Porsche Cayman GTS.

That’s a very expensive car.

True, but Fiat isn’t expecting to shift thousands. It’s a halo model, more likely to appeal to the sort of enthusiast who also owns a GT3 RS and 458 Speciale than a regular hot hatch enthusiast looking to trade up from a Fiesta ST. The 695 looks very special outside, and offers a huge sense of occasion once you’re strapped into the high-set bucket seat complete with four-point harness.

It’d better be fast.

And it is. By wringing the 1.4-litre turbo engine out to 187bhp, Abarth just about reached its target of a sub-6.0 second 0-62mph sprint. Adding ruthless lightness has helped: the bare cabin, exotic materials and absent back seats add up to a 997kg dry kerb weight.

A proper little racer then?

It flipping well is. We had the chance to drive the 695 on track immediately after a full-throttle passenger ride in an Abarth 500 rally car, and while the road car obviously requires more steering lock and hasn’t quite got the damping sophistication of a competition car, it is much faster. Racing regulations mean the rally cars must top a minimum weight limit (no such hassle for the Biposto) and also suffer a restricted power output (two-nil to the street car).

If you’re going to have a BiPosto (in matte grey only), you simply must spec the dogbox. It won’t allow clutchless shifts, but the beautifully machined lever begs to be hammered through the gate with zero mechanical sympathy, sending a whacking great shunt through the car as the next cog pops home.

Quicker changes meant the dogbox-equipped Biposto was 7mph quicker down the back straight of our Italian test track than the regular manual car. Every new gear interrupts the turbo’s hoarse roar with an authentic bang from the artillery barrels out back. It’s a hoot.

The Brembo brakes will withstand several laps before starting to fade, and the car is brilliantly throttle-adjustable thanks to a super-lenient traction control system. But the steering feels typically Fiat-numb, and the mechanical front differential is more clumsy in its metering out of power than, say, a Golf GTI’s. The greasy, cold conditions and TG’s exuberant right foot might be partly to blame there.

Is it worth the money?

On any rational level, of course not. The 500 is an old car now, and paying over fifty grand for a quick one is lunacy, especially as it’ll be intolerable on the road unless your dedication to motorsport credentials verges on the sadomasochistic. A regular Abarth 500 at £14,500 makes much more sense in the UK, and even that has a particularly unyielding ride on dodgy roads.

But then, since when has any lightweight car which forces you to pay more for less ever made empirical sense? On paper, the 695 looks like madness, but in on the metal, it looks downright evil, and on track, it is a mischievous, exhilarating but ultimately forgiving little scamp. For having the vision to conceive it, and the conviction to build and sell it, Abarth, we salute you.

What do you think?

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