What is it?
This is another variation on the Fiat-based Abarth 500. You might think that with five models in the 500-based Abarth range, there were enough already, but no: Fiat’s successful performance brand has just introduced a new model, badged Trofeo, and at the same time another limited edition. The pricey exclusive model is the £20,360 695 Yamaha XSR inspired by the brand’s MotoGP sponsorship, while the £17,360 595 Trofeo slots between the base £15,260 595 and the £18,360 595 Turismo as a permanent addition.
The Trofeo provides a 158bhp, 169lb ft version of the 1.4 T-Jet turbo engine, 15bhp more than in the standard 595 and only 5bhp less than the Turismo’s 163bhp. It’s a trivial power difference, the two powertrains delivering identical torque and the same 7.3sec 0-62mph time, although you’ll go just over 1mph faster with 163 horses. But you'll beat the base 595 to 62mph by 0.5sec.
The Trofeo package also provides more hardware. Over the standard 595 you get bigger 17in alloys, a dual-mode, quad-pipe exhaust system (grandly titled ‘Dual Record Monza exhaust’), perforated front discs and Koni rear dampers. These feature the famous Dutch shock absorber brand’s frequency-selective damping (FSD), the non-Koni front struts also having FSD. Each damper features an extra internal oil-way to improve their handling of high-frequency bumps that affect ride, without compromising the suspension’s ability to deal with the low-frequency wheel inputs required for good roadholding. So it’s claimed, anyway, although there’ll be moments when you question the effectiveness of these modifications when the ride turns turbulent.
The Trofeo’s interior is essentially the same as that of other Abarth 500s, being stylishly furnished within a grotto-like space. The Trofeo’s seats are attractively styled with six large circular perforations and Abarth stitching to the head restraints, the wheel is leather-rimmed and the 7.0in U-Connect infotainment system includes some basic telemetry.
What's it like?
You enjoy these toys perched high in the 500’s cramped, narrow cabin, but the feeling of confinement soon evaporates unless you’re tall, because you’ll be concentrating on the ensuing lightly riotous entertainment - especially if the roads are decently surfaced, as per the Sardinian test drive. This is a car with the front-end bite of a terrier and the same small-scale determination. It claws its way towards apexes in a way that’ll soon have you attacking them with more ferocity, especially as the 1.4 Multijet turbo motor is just as eager above 2000rpm, its exhaust sounding like a distant munitions test zone. The Abarth’s enthusiasm for apexes is in large part the product of Torque Transfer Control, or torque vectoring.
It combines with steering that’s decently precise and has some reassuring heft, but you can forget getting much feedback, because there’s very little. The precision partly compensates, though, as does its responsiveness. The lock is laughable, incidentally. The grippy seats, tactile wheel, slick-enough gearchange and robust aura encourage the bold, especially when you discover that you can bung this Abarth at tight corners and enjoy exits bordering on four-wheel drifts when the ESP lies dormant. The experience is frenetic but not madly so, at least on our decently surfaced route.
Should I buy one?
We know, though, that the 595 turns undesirably lively on well-beaten B-roads, and that’s how you’ll probably feel at the end of one if your journey is long. Sometimes you’ll get airborne in your seat, the Abarth’s ride only smooth when the road below is the same. But when you’re aboard such a cutely pugnacious machine, this sizeable flaw seems to diminish. If you fancy sudden bursts of urgent, energetic driving, this car delivers. What the Trofeo itself delivers is a more affordable step towards a higher output than the more expensive Turismo offers. For an extra £2100 over the standard 143bhp, you go usefully faster and gain a small but appealing bundle of extra kit that makes for a tempting proposition.
Price £17,360 Engine 4 cyls, 1368cc, turbo, petrol Power 158bhp at 5500rpm Torque 170lb ft at 3000rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1215kg 0-62mph 7.3sec Top speed 135mph Economy 47.1mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 139g/km, 26%