Good things come in small packages, goes the saying so that must be why food and beverage makers downsize their products and ask for the same price…Fiat, however, has gone the other route and given us two versions of the now discontinued Esse Esse, with the Tourismo and Competizione and adds more choice with the 500 Sport. Are the Fiat 500 Competizione and Fiat 500 Sport beer and chips or lemon and milk? A Wheel Thing back to backs the pair and comes up with a somewhat mixed platter.
Size doesn’t matter here, they’re both 1.4L in capacity, however, although both have a Sport button on the inside, the Abarth gets the turbo and the Sport doesn’t. The extra huff offers 118 kW (5500 rpm) and 230 torques at 3000 rpm, with the Sport restricted to 74 kW and 131 Nm at 6000/4250 revs. Somewhat oddly, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, the Competizione is a five speed manual whilst the lesser twisting Sport gets a six speed.
Fuel economy is fantastic in the Sport, with a claimed 6.1L/100 km combined (5.1L/100 km highway, 7.7L/100 km urban) from the comparitively tiny 35 litre tank. The Competizione isn’t far off with 6.5L/100 km for the combined, whilst urban and highway are 8.5L and 5.4L respectively. We can only wonder what those figures would be with a six speed. The aforementioned Sport button is linked, in the Abarth, to an exhaust flap at the top of the silencer which, when actuated, provides a measurably extra kick in the bum compared to the Off mode by modifying the engine’s exhaust compression curve.
There’s enough similarity between these two that it does take a second look to note the Abarth front dam, side skirts and quad exhaust tip plus some saucy looking 12 spoke black painted alloys, 17 inches in diameter, centre capped with the famous Abarth Scorpion logo and shod with 205/40 rubber from Michelin, rolling around cross drilled discs and bright yellow brake callipers. Both cars came in a dark grey, with the Competizione having Abarth decals on its flanks.
Both cars had a six light front treatment, with the Abarth’s dam a one piece unit and featuring vents either side of the lower driving lights and ahead of the front wheels. Both cars came with a tastefully designed roof spoiler atop the hatch. It’s a compact car, at a lick over 3.5 metres in length and a wheelbase of just 2.3 metres. Overall height is 1488 mm and 1627 mm in width, with the track front and rear almost identical at 1414 mm and 1408 mm.
On The Inside.
This is where the two follow a divergent path; there’s Sabelt racing seats in the Competizione, in a shade of orange Tic Tacs would be happy with, with next to no padding but plenty of lateral support.
There’s an angle adjustment dial on the bottom right for the driver and left for the passenger, however the compact dimensions of the 500 body make it difficult to access. There’s some padding and the same retina burning orange in the back seat, contrasting vividly with the muted grey and tyre pattern striped centre parts of the Sport’s seats, flanked by fire engine red bolsters and door trim. The Sport’s dash also has a dull aluminuim look insert, adding some much needed colour variation. The wonderful circular design theme continues in both, with headrests, airvents and more of the round shape. The Sport’s aircon controls are more of the “retro” style as well, featuring dials for the speed, direction etc rather than the push button style inside a circle, of the Competizione.
There’s alloy pedals for the Abarth against standard rubber pads and both have their name emblazoned proudly in the door sill panel. Also, a happy (designed in?) coincidence with the parcel shelf for the Abarth having Competizione layered into the material and being seen in the rear vision mirror.
The Sport also gained a satnav unit embedded on the dash; the Abarth dips out and both retain the standard red dot matrix radio display. Sound quality is decent and controls are user friendly. A downside of the Sabelt sports seats is the width; trying to reach the dial to adjust for angle is impossible, due to the compact interior dimensions, it’s incredibly tight to reach a hand in and down and around.
On The Road.
It’s here where it becomes almost unbelieveable that these two come from the same family. First up, the extra 100 torques in the Abarth make it a rocketship compared to the stately progress of the Sport. Hit the Sport button, in the Sport, to turn off that feature, and you feel the car immediately slow, almost as if it’s rolling through molasses. By only one measure can its speed then be measured and that’s against a glacier. To extract anything remotely useful from the Sport (and there is a misnamed car if there ever was one), the extra grunt is required. Having said that, the smooth gear lever can be hurried through without issue and, combined with a finely balanced clutch mechanism, the six speed manual transmission can be rowed through swiftly, with only minimal drop off in revs.
The Competizione, on the other hand, is aptly named, not only for its acceleration but its yawning lack of suspension give. Rock hard spring and damper settings combine horribly with the the 40 series tyres to provide a ride that requires a billiard table flat surface to provide something approaching comfort. Sure, some will moan, it’s a sports car, but there’s sports and there’s Sports. When a car rolls over a five cent piece and it feels as if you’re just straddled a speed bump, then there’s a comfort problem straight away. There’s compliance in springs and dampers available, just not in this car.
The higher profiled tyres in the Sport work well, in this respect, along with a more easy to live with suspension tune, across all road surfaces. Under acceleration, the Competizione fairly belts along, snapping through the five ratios with allacrity, popping and grumbling sometimes from the exhaust with the foot lifting off the go pedal. Turn in is precise, easy to set up into a corner, while the Sport has easily judged understeer. There’s also a feeling of torque steer in the Competizione; I say feeling, as it never really exhibited itself.
There’s was a hint of the steering wheel wanting to pull away from the hands but it never did, rather there was always a feeling of barely restrained wolves about to snap the chain. Adding to the enjoyment side of the Abarth is that lovely snarl from the quad tipped exhaust, the bark from the over run and the extra verve from the flaps in the exhaust system when that Sport button was engaged. The Sport is much more muted, with a single exhaust tip.
Pure and simple, there’s a sunshine gap between the two. The Abarth 595 Competizione is for those that enjoy the sound of a crackling exhaust, the urge of a turbo engine in a small car and the skateboard ride quality it offers. The Sport needs a change of name. It also needs patience from a driver, a driver that is quite happy to take their time motivating quietly and comfortably from point to point as it’s not for the exuberant driver, unlike the Abarth.
Beer and chips, they are not, neither are they milk and lemon, but firmly in between. Then there’s the value equation; with the Abarth at around $40K driveaway, it’s not the best value for the price and at $20K for the 500 Sport, it may seem well priced but against competition such as the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Hyundai i20, it suffers from size and (lack of) acceleration.
For details and more indepth information, head across to http://www.fiat.com.au. For pricing options call up Private Fleet and Bid My Car.
The Cars: Fiat Abart 595 Competizione, Fiat 500 Sport.
Engine: 1.4L, MultiAir (Sport), turbo (Abarth).
Fuel Consumption: (Sport) 7.1 L/100 km city, 5.0L/100 km highway, 6.1L/100 km combined. (Abarth) 8.5L/5.4L/6.5L.
Weight: 930 kg (Sport), 1035 kg (Abarth).
Dimensions: LxWxH in mm: Sport 3546 x 1488 x 1627, wheelbase 2300 mm.
Wheels/Tyres: 17 inch, 205/40 (Abarth), 15 inch, 185/55 (Sport).
Warranty: 3 years/150,000 km plus Fiat Roadside Assist.
Price: $20000.00 driveaway (Sport), $36500.00 + ORC’s (Abarth)