Fiat Punto Evo Abarth/500C Abarth driven
* Punchy performance; good looks * Not cheap and should handle better * Both are on sale now...
The scorpion badge is worn exclusively by Fiat's Abarth performance models, and new versions of the 500C and Punto Evo have just earned the mark.
It's not just the badge that gives these cars their fearsome looks. Both have beefy-looking bumpers with all manner of spoilers and skirts attached, while chunky alloys and chromed twin-exhaust tailpipes complete the package. If that's not enough, lairy paintjobs and in-your-face decals can be added as optional extras, too.
Fiat 500C Abarth
The real sting , though, comes from a pair of turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engines. The 500C's has 138bhp (5bhp up on the Abarth hatchback to offset the C's extra weight) and is linked to a semi-automatic paddleshift gearbox. The car is undeniably brisk, but the shifts are jerky and it's annoying that you have to press a separate button to select first and reverse gears.
Fiat Punto Evo Abarth
The Punto, meanwhile, has 163bhp transferred through a six-speed manual 'box. It feels a good deal quicker when you're working it hard, and because it has Fiat's clever Multiair technology, it's really flexible when you're not.
If you want more from the Punto's dynamics, then have a play with the lever mounted next to the gearstick. This switches the car between Normal and Sport modes, which varies the steering weight and throttle response accordingly. In Normal, the throttle response is woefully lazy, and even in Sport, the steering could do with more weight and feel. It's a shame, because the grip and body control are pretty good.
The 500C swaps between modes using a button rather than a lever, but the throttle suffers the same fate in Normal mode, and the steering is never ideal. The bouncier suspension set-up hurts it more, though. Crests and dips unsettle the car when you're pushing on, and there's too much body lean in bends. It's not as grippy as the Punto, either.
In short, neither car troubles the best in class for thrills. Neither is a particularly cheap alternative, either. The Punto costs £16,500, while the 500C is priced at £17,500. Still, both come well equipped, with electric front windows, air-conditioning, remote locking, Bluetooth, seven airbags and stability control included as standard.
What Car? says
New Abarths are fast, but not as much fun as they look