The roof has come off the Abarth 595 Competizione, available at Richard Hardie showrooms across the north-east of England, just in time for summer. But then, I guess Christmas Day would be a pretty poor time to launch a cabriolet.
At a shade under £19,000, the 595 Competizione cabriolet couldn’t be described as cheap, but you do get an awful lot for your money. How can you put a price on laughter drifting away on the wind? Or, more practically, the top-quality materials?
This is a chunky monkey of a car. Even the branding badges on the sides look pleasantly plus-size. The Sabelt racing seats up front look astonishingly inviting. Prefer your seats in leather and alcantara? You just added over £1000 to your bill. But boy does it seem worth it.
Further attractive embellishments include the standard aluminium pedals and footrest, while the aluminium gearknob is so desirable, we’ll forgive you for fondling it at the lights.
But wait, things get even better when you switch into Sport mode. This reconfigures the digital instruments, beefs up the steering and makes the accelerator ultra-responsive. Want to reduce torque steer? You’ll be wanting the Torque Transfer Control button. Every vehicle should have one.
So what’s it like to drive? Well, an upright driving position and performance borrowed from the space shuttle create a sort of Exocet missile/ hardbacked chair combo. Seats are cosy, though. You’ll feel nicely cosseted as the 1.4-litre 158bhp turbo propels you to 60mph in nine seconds or so.
There’s a fairly short wheelbase, so you could spend some productive time planning routes that avoid speed bumps, but then you get Koni Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) technology. Obviously. You’d forgotten, hadn’t you? Tsk.
The Record Monza exhaust system continues the theme of unlikely and extravagantly named technology. It’s a system that seems to have much in common with spacecraft propulsion. The Abarth 595 seems to look for gaps in the traffic all by itself. When it finds them, its enthusiasm off the mark is remarkable.
If you had your logical head on, you’d probably never go anywhere near the Abarth 595 Competizione. In fact, you’d probably be buying an Astra. But you’ve read this far, so you’re clearly an impulsive creature, one who believes that tomorrow is another day and it’ll probably take care of itself. So, sit back, buckle up, drop the hood and prepare to whoop.