Under the lairy paint and scorpion logos there are worthwhile engineering changes intended to put extra spring in the Abarth version’s step. These include the usual tuning to suspension, tyres and handling, ‘Scorpion Track’ and ‘Scorpion Street’ driving modes and various tweaks to the battery, motor and control systems to eke out every last kW. This sees power increase from 118PS (87kW) on the most powerful version of the regular 500 Electric to 152PS (114kW), while a lower 10:2 final drive ratio for the gearbox cuts two seconds off the 0-62mph time.
That's impressive, but, perhaps unwisely, Abarth let us razz round the Balocco test track in the outgoing 695 Competizione in an attempt to validate its work on the electric 500 and the comparisons weren’t entirely flattering, at least for the more enthusiastic driver.
Sure, the ICE version is a bit long in the tooth, raw in power delivery and handling, and far from perfect. But you sure as hell feel the extra 300kg weighing down the electric version and, while this helps calm the jiggly ride, it fails to replicate the riotous acceleration and thrilling sense of naughtiness that characterises the petrol-powered predecessor. The quest for a more mature and refined vibe also presents as a less dynamic experience at the wheel, with stubborn understeer replacing the previous throttle adjustability.
Fair to say none of this will likely trouble the target audience, for whom the much improved comfort over broken tarmac and more relaxed driving style will likely be of more relevance on the city streets it’s designed for. Trading top speed for punchier acceleration via the revised gearing feels like the right move for the car’s expected role as well, and if not ultimately as fast as the ICE 695 it still feels sufficiently spirited to wear those scorpion badges.
While there’s no escaping the blunting effect of those extra kilos, electrification has been successfully weaved into the Abarth 500 narrative, with slick calibration of throttle, steering and braking both regenerative and conventional, and genuine one-pedal driving in Scorpion Street and Turismo modes. In short this feels like a quality product set up by people who know what they’re doing.