Fiat 500 Abarth appears in its fastest form yet

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Fiat ended the Abarth-trained 500's career in the United States, but the fun-sized hot hatch is still around in Europe. It just spawned a new limited-edition model named 695 EsseEsse that's lighter and quicker than the production car.

Offered exclusively as a hatchback, the 695 EsseEsse wears a redesigned hood that weighs 25% less than the standard car's because it's made out of aluminum instead of steel. If you're taking notes for a car-spotting trip to Italy, keep in mind the new-look panel features a pair of domes not found on the standard 695. Out back, the EsseEsse inherits a sizeable spoiler from the 70th Anniversary model whose angle can be manually adjusted from 0 to 60 degrees. When set to 60 degrees, the wing provides up to 93 pounds of additional downforce.

Abarth made no major mechanical modifications to the 695, so power comes from a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to develop 180 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It spins the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission operated with a carbon fiber shift knob, and it exhales through an Akrapovič exhaust system that's lighter than the unit fitted to the standard 695. We're told it sounds better on and off the track, too.

Hitting 62 mph from a stop takes 6.7 seconds, and Abarth quotes a top speed of 140 mph when the rear wing is set to 0 degrees. Koni shock absorbers ensure the EsseEsse is just as thrilling on a twisty road as it is in a straight line.

Abarth will make 1,390 units of the 695 EsseEsse, and production will be split evenly between Scorpion Black (pictured) and Campovolo Gray. Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but it's of little interest to American enthusiasts because nothing suggests the 500 and its Abarth-tuned derivative will make a comeback in the United States.

What's in a name?

Rewind to 1964, when the 500 used a rear-mounted air-cooled engine and Abarth operated as a tuner rather than as a sub-brand. It transformed the tiny 500 into a sports car by increasing the two-cylinder's displacement to 690 cubic centimeters (42.1 cubic inches) and fitting it with wider wheel arches, among other modifications. The end result was a 38-horsepower pocket rocket capable of reaching 87 mph, an unbelievable speed at the time.

Abarth named its creation 695 SS, and it wrote out the acronym on the engine cover instead of using the two letters. It's like if Chevrolet had fitted "Impala EssEss" badges to the Impala SS. Production was capped at 1,000 units.

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