Going down the gears as I shot uphill in my Fiat 500 Abarth, I realized that I was enjoying the future of sporty driving.
The 500 is a very cool city car, but get this 135 bhp racing version boosted by Fiat’s performance division and it becomes real pocket rocket. Add the Esseesse package and it packs a roaring 160 bhp punch.
As road speed limits are set, why would you need anything faster? It’s cars like this — that are reasonably-priced, practical, economical daily drivers but fun to race at the weekend — that people will be turning to as finances feel the squeeze.
The 500 Abarth has a gear-shift indicator to help you get the best performance when it’s in “sport” mode, and the best economy when it’s not — the best of both worlds.
Before long wildly impractical, two-seater luxury sports cars will be passe for the average person. For a start, they’ll be out of everyone’s price league — right now city bankers are flooding the market with second-hand supercars they can no longer afford or justify.
It’s not just the purchase price, it’s also the cost of insurance, tax, fuel, maintenance, speeding fines, parking and needing a second car for the weekly supermarket run.
The traditional sports car will be like a fur coat, a label of conspicuous consumption that’s going to be out of fashion.
For us city folk, a fast little hot hatch is the way forward. Right now the choice is fairly limited — you can buy a MINI Cooper S, the 1.6l 211 bhp MINI John Cooper Works, VW Golf GTI, or Ford Fiesta RS.
However as this segment grows, we’ll see a wider selection on offer — there should be a souped-up Alfa Romeo MiTo, and at Geneva we’ll be seeing a new Renault Clio GT, a MINI-rival Citroen DS, and in the future Audi’s A1 should provide a feisty premium option too.
In the meantime, I’m going back to the hillclimb with my little Fiat 500 Abarth — if you can have this much fun in such a small, stylish city car, why would you want anything else?
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