IT IS NUTS IN EVERY WAY, THE ABARTH 695 BIPOSTO; STUPIDLY EXPENSIVE, RIDICULOUSLY SMALL, AND ABSOLUTELY BONKERS TO DRIVE.
To drive it, you have to punch it in the mouth on every gear-change. And it responds by thumping you in the back.
And if you were to buy one – but you’ll have to be quick, there are less than 20 ear-marked for Australia – your friends will wonder quietly if you are totally “out-of-your-flakey-tiny-microscopic-mind”. That’s what they’ll think.
This is Abarth’s 695 BiPosto: “the world’s smallest supercar”.
Price: $65,000 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/transmission: 1.4 litre turbo petrol/5-speed manual (with optional dog-ring gearbox)
Fuel consumption claimed: 6.5 l/100km; tested: 9.1 l/100km
There are only two seats in the Abarth BiPosto – that’s the ‘BiPosto’ reference – it’s just for two; or for one and a race track.
And it is as raw and unadorned as a slab of meat. There is no air-conditioning and no radio.
But who needs the latter? You won’t hear it anyway over the snarling and popping of the exhaust, the thud of each shift, the turbo whistle and the ill-mannered snorting induction from under the bonnet.
And it’s uncomfortable, not because the seats are crook (they’re not, they’re beautifully trimmed), but because the ergonomics are defined by the space they’re working in. Very little space, as it happens, like a shoebox with crushed corners.
And how much should you pay for all this pain? Try $65,000… no wait, more… add $15,000 for the ‘dog-ring’ gearbox, and, just a sec, then there’s the special ‘twin-valve’ exhaust… and the racing harnesses and track timing gear… (“Hang it, here’s the $100k, now give me the car…”)
As I said, it’s nuts. But call the men in white coats, because I’ve driven it, and I want one.
And so does one of my Fiat-tragic friends. He owns a Ferrari, an older one, it was all I could do to stop him dribbling over the duco and sounding like a total goose.
It’s as rare as rare, and notions of “sensible money” don’t enter the discussion. You can either afford it or not.
That’s Abarth’s maddest brat, its unapologetic, riotously fast and totally nonsensical 695 Biposto.
How do you rate an interior with nothing much in it, but ‘the inside’?
No air-con, it won’t fit under the bonnet – the ‘snail’ and the piping there takes up too much space.
And, yes, no radio, but surely there is nothing worth listening to that can possibly sound better than the ‘thrash-metal with fireworks’ chorus from under the bonnet and the operatic whining of the dog-ring transmission.
The seats but… they’re good. They’re very comfortable, and they have to be because everything around them is uncomfortable.
But you perch on them rather than sit, that’s because the Biposto is so short. Its wheelbase is barely an arm-span, and the only useable free space is upright. So you sit up high, the feet barely forward: the automotive equivalent of a bar-stool.
And there are no window winders, because there is no conventional side-window – just a racing ‘slot’ in the clear polycarbonate sheet. And neither are there door trims or armrests (who needs such fripperies?), just a flat panel and door-pulls.
But there are door handles. (So there’s an extra half-star.)
Rear seats? Nope, the space there is taken up by rear bracing, and, if you tick the box (and there goes another few grand) the racing harnesses for the front seats.
The centre-piece though, the work of art, and worth every cent of its $15k asking just for the daily joy of staring at its delicious polished metal bones, is the ‘slamming mechanism’ for the dog-ring gearbox – the gear shift.
Otherwise, around the interior are the ratty plastics and toy-like controls that we’ve come to expect in these little Fiat 500-based racing Abarths. In the 695 BiPosto, things are taken a little upmarket, I said “a little”, by carbon fibre and piano-black garnishes and a stitched leather-cap on the instrument binnacle.
This is a racecar interior, it’s built for the track, and not for cosseting. It’s bare, it’s raw, there is no sound deadening, get over it.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 1.4 litre turbo petrol/5-speed dog-ring gearbox
- Power/torque: 140kW/250Nm
- Weight: 997kg
- Performance: 0-100km/h 5.9 seconds
Strap in, manhandle the lever to ‘first’, don’t bother trying to slip the competition clutch the way you would a normal car – it will pig-root and snatch and likely stall – instead, get the revs up and let it jump away.
Floor it, and let the fireworks begin.
You will hear everything, and nothing but everything. The howl of the engine, the snap of the gears, the mad bark of the twin-valve exhausts and the rising and falling whistle of the turbo.
This is fun, but it gets much funner.
Get the oil nicely circulated and some heat into that transmission, then let the ‘dog-ring’ gearbox come out to play.
Accelerate, then ‘bang’, belt it clutchless into the next gear, then ‘bang’, into the next. Each change is a whallop, like a belt with lump of four-by-two, and things become mad-arse.
And, because it is so small, and everything is so connected and so tightly packed around you, it seems the more mad.
Cornering is another thing. The BiPosto weighs just 997kg, and it hammers 140kW out of its turbo-driven 1.4 litres. And its wheelbase is barely longer than the width of its track (not much longer than a go-kart, in fact).
It turns in like a ferret – mad, darting, nose-in – and then simply launches from the apex. Nail it too hard, and the torque pulls wildly at the wheel and there is every chance, unless you’re prepared for it, that it will spear you into the shrubbery.
But the traction control is just right. It will tighten awfully quickly with a quick tuck-in when you lift off, then carry some sideways momentum while it sorts out where you next want it to fire.
That will be another cost with owning this car, the ritual shredding of your licence.
Unless you’re a saint, if you drive it on the road, you’ll eventually find yourself spread-eagled on the bitumen while some ‘good ol’ boy in blue’ wonders whether he should just shoot you right now and be done with it.
VERDICT | OVERALL
Look, there is nothing sensible about this car. The price, the bare-bones accommodation, the eye-watering options list, everything is nuts.
But it is sensational, totally raw, entirely connected, and absolutely spell-binding at the wheel. To drive it is to love it – simple as that.
Don’t bother commenting about how expensive the Abarth 695 BiPosto is; the notion of “sensible purchase” doesn’t enter the discussion.
This is a toy for someone who doesn’t care, and doesn’t need to count the dollars in the purchase – they’ll just buy it.
I had an acquaintance who once paid $40,000 for a pen, a rare one, valuable apparently, but a pen nonetheless.
Few cars defy comparison and define themselves in the absence of the market. This one does. You can easily find more sensible ways to spend your money, but then you’ve missed the point.
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