Abarth Esseesse

New Firebreather puts even more sting in scorpion’s tail.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Abarth Grande Punto offers ample performance, but for keen drivers only the Esseesse kit will truly satisfy. The boosted engine is complemented by well judged improvements to the brakes, while the lowered suspension firms the ride. But it’s a little too hard, and the £3,500 price premium over the standard car is quite a lot to swallow. For the pure Italian hot hatch experience, however, there’s no competition.

The Abarth Grande Punto is one of the most exciting hot hatches we’ve tried this year. But if you want a model promising even more thrills, Fiat’s performance arm has now brought out the hot Esseesse – that’s SS, or Super Sport – upgrade package.

An extra £3,500 and a little patience is all it takes to turn the standard car into a firebreathing rival to the likes of the Renaultsport Clio 197.

The special Esseesse tuning upgrade is an official Abarth product, fitted by dealers. The comprehensive kit includes high-performance brake discs and pads, lowered suspension and motorsport-inspired 18-inch white-painted alloys.

But that’s not all, as the 1.4-litre T-Jet engine gets a power hike with the addition of a performance air filter, larger turbo, bigger exhaust and remapped ECU. These boost output to 180bhp – more than twice that of a standard Grande Punto’s 77bhp unit. And for behind-the-wheel excitement, the Esseesse is sure to appeal. The Abarth Grande Punto is already an entertaining drive, but the upgraded version proves just how much potential there is in the basic package.

The steering is keener, with a sharp turn-in and a surprising amount of feedback to inspire confidence. Throttle response is more immediate – 0-62mph is covered in 7.5 seconds, while the standard Abarth takes 8.2.

It’s accompanied by some great sound effects as the exhaust crackles and pops with the engine’s extra snap. The improved stopping power from the uprated brakes easily reins in the performance, should you get carried away.

The downside is the very firm ride – you can become painfully aware of its presence on bumpy roads. However, if you really want to experience one of the best hot hatches on offer, don’t let that flaw put you off.

Rival: Renaultsport Clio 197 Renaultsport's hardcore hot hatch puts the emphasis firmly on thrills above all else. The Clio 197’s revvy 2.0-litre engine, plus its excellent chassis and competitive price, make this car the enthusiast’s choice.

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