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Abarth 695 Biposto: the world’s smallest supercar
The 695 Biposto is Abarth’s most extreme car ever. Tim Pitt lives with it for a week
Abarth described the 695 Biposto as the world’s smallest supercar.
In truth, it’s closer to a road-legal race car. Either way, this fastest and feistiest of Fiat 500s came with a price tag to match. When launched in 2014, it cost from £33,055. This fully-loaded example – pride of Abarth UK’s heritage fleet – tips the scales at £51,945. Let that sink in for a moment. Recovered? Then we’ll move on…
Built to celebrate 50 years of the Abarth 695, the Biposto has a bare-bones interior, super-stiff suspension, a dog-ring gearbox (more on that shortly), no air-con and no radio. Frankly, it’s better suited to the Nürburgring than the Surrey suburbs. So I decided to spend a week with it: commuting, shopping, doing the school-run and queuing on the M25. As you do.
When I arrive at Abarth HQ in Slough, the Biposto has already drawn a crowd. Perhaps they recognise its rarity, perhaps not – but there’s no disguising its racing roots. Spot the jutting front bumper with carbon fibre splitter, power-bulged aluminium bonnet and steroidal wheelarches stuffed with 18in OZ alloys. Then there are the tailgate spoiler, fully-functional rear diffuser and sawn-off-shotgun Akrapovic tailpipes. If the Fiat 500 is a cheery wave, this is a clenched fist.
The Abarth might look cool, but I sadly do not. I clamber inside, pull the door shut with a Porsche RS-style fabric strap and proceed to spend 10 minutes fiddling with the four-point harness. Finally strapped in, I twist the key, lift the clutch and promptly stall the engine. Giving the onlookers a sheepish smile, I die a little inside. Thankfully, things would soon get better.
My problem, as you may have guessed, was the optional £8,500 (!) gearbox. A straight swap from the Assetto Corse racer, it allows clutchless changes, shaving valuable tenths off your lap-time. It’s also a work of art, the exposed linkage framed in red anodised aluminium. There’s still a clutch pedal to prevent stalling when you stop, but the dog rings engage better when you don’t use it. Simply grab the long lever, which is positioned inches from the steering wheel, and bang it home. Brutal, but effective.
Once I’d got the hang of the gearbox, I began to bond with the Biposto. Its 190hp 1.4-litre turbo engine doesn’t fully wake up until 3,000rpm, but with just 997kg to haul, it’s as eager as terrier with a tennis ball. Keep the revs high – with a brief lift for each shift – and it feels ballistically, hilariously quick. It sounds great, too: a gurgling growl that swells to a red-blooded roar.
Lower suspension, a wider track, beefed-up Brembo brakes and a mechanical limited-slip diff add up to serious cross-country pace, too. You can hustle a Biposto along a home counties B-road as quickly as many an oversized supercar – and emerge with an equally broad grin. Suddenly, that £52,000 price tag starts to look almost palatable.
Hang on, though: time for a reality-check. Living in Croydon (surely the ultimate reality check?), most of my time with the Biposto was spent battling with its gearbox in traffic, or wincing as the seemingly solid springs crashed over speed humps. This isn’t a remotely sensible car, or indeed one you’d want to drive every day. As a weekend toy, however, perhaps for the wealthy collector who already owns a Ferrari or two, it has its place.
Ultimately, the 695 Biposto shows what Abarth, a former tuning company now recognised as a car manufacturer in its own right, is capable of. And with more planned for its 70th anniversary year in 2019, that’s an exciting prospect.
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