Abarth have been turning tiny Fiats into little monsters since 1952 – a few years after Carlo Abarth bought what remained of Cisitalia and decided to start making cars himself. Soon after the iconic original Fiat 500 arrived on the scene Carlo's team had made the mighty 595 and showed that the teensy little people's car of Italy could be turned into a performance rocket. Soon he followed it up with the 695, a pocket rocket with a motor wedged into the rear that was so powerful that there was no way they could keep it cool without perma-propping the boot open. Thankfully for them, this had unintendedly positive aerodynamic consequences and made the tiny little Abarth look even more awesome.
Now Abarth are a part of Fiat, but they still spend their days fettling with big-brother Fiat's small cars. The 500 becomes the 595 again, but in 2014 they unleashed a fully-hardcore version of the 500 onto the world – the shape of the 695.
You all know what a modern Fiat 500 looks like, a larger version of the legendary classic with a funky retro interior. When a 500 becomes a 695 it sprouts a new chin, reshaped fog lamps and much more aggressive front and rear bumpers. On our car, the limited edition 'Record', it also grew a pair of massive Akrapovic exhausts and a rather lurid yellow paint job. Inside the 695's goal is to lose features rather than gain. While you can spec it back up with all the usual kit that would be slightly against the point of this stripped-out pocket-rocket. In the Record there's no radio, no air con, no door inserts and a complete lack of some other needless mod cons like floor mats and rear seats. Instead, it gains carbon-backed seats (although not with the optional four-point harnesses for us), a rear cross-brace and helmet carrier, and some rather lovely metal footplates, onto which you really don't want drop your phone.
All that option-deletion has worked a treat, the 695 Record now weighs just 997kg, which means that it produces nearly 200bhp per-tonne, despite still carrying the Fiat 500's little 1.4-litre four-pot motor. Those four cylinders have been turbocharged heavily (as you can see from the very prominent boost gauge which sits in the middle of the dash) to produce 190PS (188bhp) and 250Nm (184lb ft) of torque. Stick your toe to the floor and the tiny Abarth will be past 60mph in under six seconds, before furiously pulling itself along to a top speed of 143mph.
As you might expect that power routed through the front wheels comes with its fair share of torque steer, and out on country roads, the 695's track focused setup really shows itself. This is not a car for your daily commute, the rock-hard seats may have found near perfection in the art of balancing support an comfort, but the 695's ride will let you know about every single bump in the road in detail.
But seriously, who is going to buy a 695 and then spend every day commuting in it? This is a car you get out to take to a track, and thankfully we've experienced the Abarth on its chosen surface as well. Pull out of the paddocks and onto the smoother stuff and the 695 makes absolute sense. That smash of turbocharged power rockets this little car out of every corner with the eagerness of a cheetah that's spotted a lone gazelle. Through the corners, the steering's weight in sport mode is perfect – that trait of letting you know absolutely everything that's going on goes from being a potential irritant to being your best friend. The 695's mechanical LSD helps bring a grin-inducing ability to chuck the car into any bend and not worry too much about the dreaded front-wheel-drive understeer. Should some arrive you can tug your right foot away from the throttle and initiate a great lovely dollop of lift-off rear-end fun.
Abarth never forgot how to make fast cars, they just went away for a few decades until Fiat decided the time was right again. The 695 may come with a price tag over it's slower sisters but it's one well worth paying for a hot hatch that's completely ready to embarrass the bigger boys on the track. If you can stretch to selecting that incredible dog-ring gearbox too then we would highly recommend it, but either way, the 695 is an absolute hoot. The little Abarth may be the angriest little monster around, but its one in which you can really have an absolute ball.