Is the Abarth 695 Rivale the best little fast car in the world?
First thing's first, the Abarth 695 tends to be a special edition. Previous special editions have been the 695 Biposto and 695 XSR Yamaha etc - limited run cars with special performance perks or unique differences. This particular car has been made by Abarth in cahoots with Riva the Yacht makers, as such there are tonnes of nautical themes throughout and it really stands out anywhere it goes.
Powered by a 1.4 turbo petrol engine, the 695 Rivale generates 180bhp / 250Nm torque and throws itself to 62mph in 6.7 seconds. It can reach 140mph and has an impressive 172.2 bhp per tonne - enough to keep up with the new BMW 540d xDrive. Nippy!
The first thing that hit me about the Rivale was just how special it looks on the outside, especially as a cabriolet. The two-tone paint is encapsulating whilst the 17" Supersport alloys (and Brembos behind them) draw you even closer. The finer details are just beautiful. Lovely sweeping lines all over the exterior, perfectly painted and truly a work of art.
The only down side to the 695, which is prevalent in all 500/595/695, is that it's a 2-door. I pray for the day they make an Abarth 500X, because the annoyance is trying to get out of the 695 whilst in a tight parking space and not whacking the car next to you. They doors are big! Annoyingly, whilst a 'hot' 500X had been rumoured some time ago to perhaps go under the Abarth brand - it now seems that has been canned.
When you get to the back of the Rivale, you're in for something special. The active Akrapovic exhaust sounds so good it's as if a sorcerer has used magic to ensure it always sounds good. The perfectly created rear defuser adds such a lovely touch to the back of the 695 too, and the nautical theme on the boot?
Well, that seals the deal for me. It told me that the exterior had such an attention to detail I was going to love it - before I even stepped inside. The only downside to the 695C vs 695 is that kind of.. tiny.. rear door. Shopping isn't an issue, but anything bigger needs to roof down to fit in.
Stepping in, you find yourself surrounded by bundles of perfectly placed carbon and leather. The seats are extremely comfortable, the seating position can be a little weird until you've driven for a little bit though. Whilst there is some harder plastics in places, it is well finished and is generally soft to the touch. The Rivale comes with the Beats hi-fi system which, whilst not an expensive system, is extremely clear and bang for buck is the best you can get on a low budget.
However, it's standard in the Rivale - and works perfectly in the smaller cabin. Your rear passengers get some space, but not as much as say a Fiesta ST. You can easily take 2 in the rear, however they need to be medium build at best - the rear seats aren't very wide. Annoyingly it also lacks ISOFIX in the back!
Performance is where I feel the 695 doesn't get the appreciation it deserves. Every time I said the 695 had 180bhp, you'd have a Fiesta fanboy saying "well the new ST has 200bhp", which is good and all - but the two are totally different in so many ways.
The 695 has a extremely solid and driver engaging feel, the seating position is perfect (once you're use to it), the gearbox has a lovely throw and the pedal feel is second to none. The way the 695 takes back roads is like no other - perfectly composed with a hint of crazy. The noise isn't fake and certainly isn't pumped into the cabin - what you hear is all real. The active Akrapovic definitely helps.
Economy wise the 695 impresses too, easily achieving 45+ mpg on a motorway run, at worst around town seeing 25-28mpg (if you're really heavy footed). It's not an overly expensive car to tax or insure either - however I would advise having an alarm fitted as Abarth's (like any 'hot' car these days) are becoming prone to being stolen. Unfortunately the immobiliser won't stop them these days.
Finally, the community. Over the years of driving I've had many cars and been a member of many cars clubs, all were welcoming - but never as welcoming as the AOC (Abarth Owners Club) in the UK. We have our own Abarth 500, so I was happy to take the 695 Rivale along to a local meet. I've never been so welcomed, had such knowledgable chats, had such cool experiences and met such lovely before.
Car clubs are a mix of people, some you get one with, some you don't.. but I found myself getting on with absolutely everyone. These cars were their pride and joy, their total love.. and they respected and understood why you loved yours regardless of their own opinions. I can only recall from my experiences, which will be different to yours - but to me the AOC has such a lovely warm and welcoming vibe - like no other club in the UK.
So, is the Abarth 695 Rivale the best little fast car in the world? To me, without question, yes. It's the entire package of fun, crazy, useful, capable, beautiful and comfortable.
It's small enough to fit anywhere, but not so small it gets pushed around. It's fast enough to make you smile on every journey, but not so crazy it tries to kill you when you touch the throttle. It's frugal enough to make long journeys viable, without losing performance for economy or stopping every 2 hours for fuel.
It's such a great every day car that you drive it every day. It's such a great looking car, you always look back in the car park. Whilst it's not the fastest car in the world, I think it's the best little fast car in the world.