It’s a shocking cliché to say the Italians know more than anyone about injecting brio into a car (my dictionary calls it “spirit, liveliness and vigour”) but it’s still true. As the sometime owner of two Fiats, two Alfas and one Ferrari I’ve never needed convincing on this point, but I nevertheless jumped at the chance to prove it again at the launch of the Fiat Punto Abarth in Turin.
Proceedings started in a swish new showroom at Corsa Marche 34 — the very site of founder Carlo Abarth’s workshops — then moved smartly to the Balocco test track where new Abarths stood beside some superb classic models.
There, 20 outrageously privileged hacks proceeded to thrash Punto Abarths (some with tweaked “Esseesse” chassis and chipped engine, some not) around the famous circuit, which started life as a test venue for Alfa grand prix cars and still features faithful replicas of some of the world’s greatest corners.
The cars proved as willing on lap 50 as lap one, and were fully worthy of the surroundings. They seemed to use their tyres and brakes surprisingly lightly, despite the fact that I, for one, drove with total commitment, even ending proceedings with an unofficial five-lapper against a friend.
This new Abarth has things to prove in the UK, but it’s off to a great start.