Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati First Drive Car Review
Isaac Bober reviews the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
IN A NUTSHELL: Take the already warmed-up Abarth and give it more grunt, tighter suspension, an exhaust note Maserati would be proud of, and styling cues from, well, Maserati.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: There are only 40 of these cars available for Australia and that’s a shame because this is one of the stand-out hotties of the last few years. It manages to be exactly what a hot hatch should be, engaging to drive, offer loads of grip, and be totally and utterly raucous.
WHEN THE ABARTH BRAND was reborn in 2007 it was the Punto that was worked-over first (sadly, we never saw that model here in Australia). But it’s the Fiat 500 Abarth that’s the bigger news (it’s the only real competitor to the MINI Cooper S) or, as far as this review is concerned, the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati (Maserati Edition).
Don’t for an instant think this is just some cosmetic-only grab for cash on Fiat’s behalf. Because it isn’t, well, not entirely anyway – the mechanical enhancements run deep. This Maserati Edition follows in the footsteps of the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari from four years ago. That car was a hardtop while this Maserati Edition is a soft-top, and lists for an eye-watering $60,000 (+ORC).
There’s only one colour available for the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati and that is ‘Pontevecchio Bordeaux’ which is a deep burgundy colour that’s been taken straight from the Maserati paint catalogue. At first glance it’s not particularly impressive, but stare at it awhile and the colour will grow on you. The electronically-controlled soft-top is finished in Titanium Grey fabric.
The 17-inch alloys are inspired by Maserati wheels and are wrapped in 205/40 rubber, while the hexagonal exhaust pipes are a hallmark of Maserati models too.
Under the snub-nosed bonnet is a breathed-on 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, producing 132kW of power at 5500rpm and 230-250Nm of torque between 2000-3000rpm. This is channeled to the front wheels via a five-speed electrically-operated manual Abarth Competizione transmission with steering wheel mounted paddles and push button gear selectors. Fuel consumption is a reasonable 6.5L/100km combined.
Turn the key on the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati (there’s no starter button) and the car barks into life before settling into an Eartha Kitt-esque growl of an idle. And the exhaust note gets better the deeper into the rev range you go; push beyond 3000rpm and it sounds absolutely delicious.
For me, the gearbox is this car’s achilles heel, it’s just too jerky at low speeds to ever get properly comfortable with it. The transmission does get better as speed builds, and while the paddles offer nice quick shifts, you’ll probably never use them.
The steering is quick – sometimes, dare I say it, it feels too quick – and direct but it’s totally lacking in any feel and is a little springy feeling around the straightahead. And the ride is firm to say the least. That’s not to say it’s uncomfortable because it isn’t, but across patchwork surfaces it can come off feeling jiggly and a little crashy.
The handling is impressive and, across a smooth and twisting stretch of road the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati feels properly nailed down. But, because it’s such a focussed little beast it’s not a car you can ever truly relax with and, get a little ham-fisted with it and it can bite. Drive it with commitment and confidence, though, and it’ll reward with performance to shame plenty of bigger hatchback hotties.
On the inside, the Abarth 695 Edizione Maserati takes the typical Fiat 500 dash layout and tweaks it with items like the matte carbon-fibre trim for the dash and gearshift surround, which also displays the 695 logo. The seats are finished in sand beige leather with the 695 logo embossed on the headrest. Sadly though, the seats lack in under-thigh support which makes them feel more like perches.
The standard equipment list includes xenon headlights, auto climate control, a JBL-brand audio system with 400W of power, sat-nav and all of the Abarth badges and logos. Safety features include seven airbags, traction and stability controls, hill hold assist, and ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution.