Abarth 500 Esseesse 2012: Road Test

words - Matt Brogan
photos - John Wilson
Abarth 500 Esseesse rewards with a go-kart-like tenacity and nimble sure-footedness few in this category can hope to match

Abarth 500 Esseesse
Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory & delivery charges): $34,990
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Nil
Crash rating: Five-star (ANCAP & EuroNCAP)
Fuel: 91 RON ULP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 6.5
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155
Also consider:  Alfa Romeo MiTo QV (from $34,990); Renault Sport Clio 200 (from $36,490 - $38,990); Skoda Fabia RS (from $27,990 - $29,990); Volkswagen Polo GTI (from $27,790 - $28,990)

If you own a Ferrari, odds are you probably have a good accountant. If an old Jag is more your scene then you’re probably going to want a good mechanic. But if you own an Abarth 500 Esseesse (SS, in English) then there’s only one contact you’re really going to need, and that’s a bloody good chiropractor.

Forget qualities like ride compliance, human-friendly ergonomics, and generous interior accommodation. You’ll need to. The ride on offer in the 500 Esseesse will see you visiting the chiro more often than the servo.

And while you’re at it, you can also forget turning off the stability control. You can also strike cruise control, decent radio reception, auto headlamps and wipers, an automatic transmission and park lights from the list. That’s right the 500 Esseesse does not have park lights.

But what it does have is the fun factor -- in multiples of ten.

Tipping the scale at just over the metric tonne (1035kg) the 500 Esseesse is powered by a turbocharged 1368cc four-cylinder engine. It outputs a hefty 118kW at 5500rpm and 230Nm at 2750rpm.

It’s not an earth-turning amount of power by any stretch, but with a power-to-weight ratio of 114kW per tonne the 500 Esseesse features on the P-plater banned list (in some states), and can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 7.4 seconds.

The exhaust is an interesting albeit muffled pop and resonance about it, and the engine, as saucy as it is, lacks any real character, even at full noise.

Sure, the rubbery five-speed gearbox slows proceedings a tad and the left-biased pedal box doesn’t help either. But once you get yourself in the zone, and start pedalling as fast as you can the Abarth 500 Esseesse rewards with a go-kart-like tenacity and nimble sure-footedness few in this category can hope to match… except Renault Sport’s giant-killing Clio 200.

But all this fun means having to live with a few concessions. Most of the cons listed earlier in the review are enough to scare off most punters, and rightly so. There’s several in this category that will fill the role of ‘all-rounder’ better than the 500 Esseesse, and without the controversial ‘bubbly’ styling.

It’s a good thing then that the 500 Esseesse has the quick steering and low-profile wheel-on-rail handling to back its somewhat questionable street-cred. The big cross-drilled stoppers are also worth a note here, even if the pedal feels a little wooden.

Wooden too is the feel in the driver’s seat – scratch that, chair – and the relationship with the steering wheel and pedals is awkward, thanks in part to the donor car’s (Fiat 500) compromised body shape. The egg-shaped shell also means rear-seat carriage is reduced to two and the boot space minimal. But then again the 500 Esseesse is more about pace than practicality.

If you can live without the polish of Renault’s fabulous Clio Sport, the practicality of Volkswagen’s Polo or the bare-bones appeal of Skoda’s diminutive Fabia RS, then Abarth’s 500 Esseesse might just be the car for you… A car we’re sure will make you and your chiropractor friend very happy, too.

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Published : Monday, 31 December 2012
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