Since 2002 the Mini Cooper has had things all its own way. There is no shortage of hot hatchbacks on the market, but there is a shortage of ones, like the Mini, that have an inherent showroom appeal and a hefty dollop of cheek to accompany their performance and handling. The Fiat 500 Abarth aims to redress the balance.

The Abarth brand was reborn in 2007 with the Punto Abarth, but the bigger news is this 500, which followed with a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine in two stages of tune, depending on whether it's in standard form or with the optional Esseesse (SS) performance pack.

The Esseese components can be fitted when the car is new, or any time during an Abarth 500's first twelve months.

In its Esseesse trim, the Abarth 500 is the closest competitor there is to the Mini Cooper S - at least in terms of conception and image. But can it match it for speed and interaction, too?

Top 5 Pocket rockets

  • Ford Fiesta ST
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    1
  • Mini Cooper S
    The new Mini Cooper S is powered by a 189bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine

    Mini Cooper S

    2
  • Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy
    Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy costs from £21,780

    Renault Clio RS 220 Trophy

    3
  • Peugeot 208 GTi 30th
    Easy to live with, easy to enjoy and quick in a straight line, the 208 is the best GTi Peugeot has built in a decade

    Peugeot 208 GTi 30th

    4
  • Audi S1
    The Audi S1 packs a transversely mounted 228bhp four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine

    Audi S1

    5

First drives

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