First gear is all but useless. Shift to second, and it gets a bit better. But here too, go past half-throttle and you are back to square one – all you get is wheelspin, wheelspin and more wheelspin. This despite the considerably stiffer Bilstein shocks and wider 205 Yokohama S-drives (yes, we’ve just fitted 205mm tyres on a hatchback). And this is no mild-mannered wheelspin. The ramp up in power is so steep and the torque is so hard-hitting that the wheels just spin and spin, like they are running on ice. So, if you want to enjoy that rush of acceleration, as the Abarth is catapulted forward you have to short-shift to third, as absurd as that sounds.
Sure, there’s a bit of a wait as the boost builds past 2,000rpm, and 50kph, but wait a bit more, until around 2,500rpm, and you can feel it swell. The wave breaks soon after you cross 2,500rpm, and then all hell breaks loose. The boost and a thick wad of torque just comes flooding in, charging through the gates, and then all you can do is hang until you hit 140kph and 6,500rpm.
Wheelspin now is quite mild and manageable at these higher road speeds, and, as long as you have a good grip on the wheel and keep it pointing straight, it feels like you are riding a rocket with a slow fuse. Execute a quick shift to fourth and there’s no real dip in the long lusty pull, as the Abarth reels the horizon. Do this and the Abarth delivers a straightline rush no car even twice its price can; I even got our TV-show host Renuka to jump out of her seat on a long, empty stretch of road.
Oh, did I tell you the motor now puts out 170hp and 270Nm of torque, compared to the earlier 145hp and 212Nm? We did it the right way. The ECU was sent down to Peter Chacko of Pete’s Performance in Cochin, where boost pressure, ignition timing and fuelling were ‘tweaked’. We’ve got a BMC replacement filter we have yet to use and we’ve still not run the car against the clock – can’t wait. Of course, it isn’t very efficient. Pull it hard regularly and efficiency easily drops below 5kpl. But, considering the performance on tap, I think it’s well worth it. Just how much better is our modded Abarth compared to the stock car? This and other questions answered in future issues.
Fiat Abarth Punto long term review, second report
2016 Fiat Abarth Punto long term review, first report