Turbocharged tribute

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2012, 12:00am


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At first sight, the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari seems just like any other urban runabout in To Kwa Wan.

Give or take a few go-faster stripes, the Abarth Scorpion and 'tribute' badges, this yellow three-door, four seater could pass for a pumped-up Fiat 500 - until you put your foot down.

Then you really shift through Kai Tak traffic, wondering how Abarth, the high-performance arm of the Fiat Group, managed to pack 180-horsepower into a tiny, 1,368cc turbocharged engine.

This 3.657-metre small car is said to wallop 250Nm of torque at 3,000rpm, and it growls delightfully at the slightest touch of its sporty, aluminium accelerator pedal towards Lion Rock.

The gear-shift paddles to the five-speed 'Competizione' transmission soon reveal the pleasures of flipping down from fourth to third gear to gather revs, and then swooping into the fast lane to overtake on the Tolo Highway.

The car can reach 100km/h in about seven seconds, and achieve a top speed of 225km/h, which makes it about as fast in the sprint, and just 15km/h short of the top speed, of the two-litre Golf GTI (HK$335,800).

Its performance is another sign of the downsizing trend, in which marques squeeze more power and fuel consumption out of small engines to meet key export markets' concerns about global warming and fuel costs.

The Tributo was built as a collector's item, and local dealer Swire Motors says it has a sales quota of 'about 10' models.

The Tributo is not cheap at HK$799,888, yet provides lower-budget drivers of performance cars a Ferrari-like cabin, with lightweight Abarth Corsa by Sabelt seats, Jaeger instruments and a carbon and alutex dashboard that is a 'tribute' to Prancing Horse style.

The Tributo is also designed as a punchy, urban runabout for Ferrari owners who prefer to save their supercars' mileage and commute in a stylistically compatible Abarth that consumes an average of 6.5 litres per 100km, and emits 151 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.

The test car is easy to park in Hong Kong, but its joy is on the burst on highways, and the track-like roar of its Record Monza noise enhancer is unforgettable.

Later this year, Abarth will launch another 'tribute' edition: the roll-back roofed, similarly powered 695 Maserati Edition, in Pontevecchio Bordeaux.