It’s like a battle of European legends, the 1960s on replay, unless of course you’re from across the pond where few other than die hard motor enthusiasts would have even heard of the two hot hatches prior to the early 2000s. On European shores John Cooper and Carlo Abarth worked their legendary magic on these two cars, they tuned them, comprehensively restyled them, and even threw them round a race track.
Decades later the two hot hatches are back and once again winning the hearts and souls of those who crave some serious get up and go performance without having to commit a ram raid in order to acquire it.
Here, I drill down into the finer detail of the two hot hatches with the aim of crowning an overall winner. Looking at the all new 2014 MINI Cooper S as seen on www.mini.co.uk and the Fiat 500 Abarth 595 Turismo. The comparison drills down in to key areas such as performance, practicality and perhaps most importantly, running costs.
Drive & Performance
Performance is undoubtedly one of the biggest draws for buyers in the hot hatch segment and neither the Mini or Abarth disappoint. Kicking off with the Mini, its hood houses a 2.0 Turbocharged engine which produces 189 petrol powered horses, compared to the Abarths 1.4. It too is Turbocharged, but lags behind the Mini with 160 petrol powered horses at its disposal. That said, drawing on its light-weight construction, the Abarth 595 Turismo manages to tighten the power gap slightly.
On paper the two cars are not light-years apart, yet on the road the MINI boasts heaps more get up and go and overall has more refined handling which becomes more apparent on windy country roads. Meanwhile on the straight the MINI can hit 62 from stand still in just 6.8 seconds flat, 0.6 seconds quicker than the Abarth 500.
Looks & Personality
Of course looks aren’t the most important consideration for performance obsessed petrol heads, but a good looker does help when it comes down to units shifted. Both the Mini and Abarth feature many retro design queues which relate to their predecessors from the 1960s.
The 500 Abarth is widely seen as one of the most distinctive and stylish small cars out on the roads and the 595 Turismo with its two tone exterior paint and custom styling only adds to its appeal. The 500 has attracted a kind of ‘female only’ stereotype, something which the Italian marque is beginning to shake with the introduction of models such as the GQ. The Mini, however, tends to appeal to a much wider audience, to me it looks its best in British Racing Green with the John Cooper Works exterior package. This adds a stylish looking skirt package and multi spoke wheels.
From a practical stance both the 500 Abarth and the Mini Cooper S have to some extent been designed with every day use in mind. Boot capacity is limited to 160 litres in the Mini and 185 in the Abarth, but with the rear seats folded down this increases to 520 litres and 550 litres respectively. Both can comfortably accommodate four adults, but if you’re 6-foot tall you may find getting in an out of the rear seats a struggle.
Running Costs & CO2
Hot hatches aren’t just performance tuned fuel guzzlers as some might have you believe, offering combined fuel economy of 49.6 MPG on the Mini and 45.53 MPG on the Abarth, both are fairly efficient. Meanwhile CO2 emissions for the Mini Cooper S and the 500 Abarth Turismo come in at 133g/km and 155g/km respectively.
With a stylish physique, meaningful power, excellent handling and reasonable economy, my champion of the two has to be the Mini Cooper S. Filled with a long-standing affection for the Mini it could only be this way. That said, the 500 Abarth 595 Turismo is a worthy competitor.