ABARTH 595 COMP01
Flawed, but a heap of fun
AS A CAR AGES, manufacturers have two options: let it slowly fade into uncompetitive obscurity or continue to tweak and update it in an effort to keep things fresh. Abarth has chosen the latter route for its 500-based hottie, now called the 595 Competizione in its spiciest form. It first landed locally as the Abarth 500 EsseEsse in 2012, but the donor car dates back to 2007 (!). Originally launched with 118kW/230Nm at a price of $34,990, the 595 Competizione now starts at $31,990, yet offers 132kW/250Nm from its 1.4litre turbo four, attached to a five-speed manual. A robotised manual will cost you an extra $2000 and should be avoided, while losing the roof adds $4000. Otherwise the mechanical spec is largely unchanged, with Koni shocks, Brembo front brakes, 17-inch alloys with Continental rubber and a loud, loud Monza exhaust. To be blunt, if youíre after a serious hot hatch at this price point buy a Renault Clio RS or a VW Polo GTI, but as an over-the-top runabout the Abarth has its charms. The ride isnít as brutal as it once was and the powertrain is brimming with character. The ergonomics are all wrong and you feel like youíre driving a phone box, but itís a lot of fun.
Overlooked hot-hatch scores a price cut
IT MUST BE tough to be the quiet achiever, otherwise Peugeot wouldnít be trying so hard to get people to notice its 308 GTi 270. A couple years back it dropped the less powerful and grippy 250 horsepower variant to focus solely on its halo steed. We didnít mind, because a recent spin in the newly updated 270 reveals how much of a force it is on the road. Big brakes with floating discs retard speed at an alarming rate and its Michelin Super Sports hold on to roads with claw-like tenacity. That teeny-weeny turbo inline-four belies its 1.6-litre capacity and pulls as if the car weighs a feather. And at 1176kg, it might as well be. Yes, there are typical French quirks like its ridiculous augmented engine sound and the low steering wheel position. But that shouldnít distract you from its hushed cabin with Volkswagen-rivalling finish and build quality. To get more people interested, Peugeot has just slashed its RRP by $4000, driving it down to $45,990. Itís also updated its front and rear LED lights, along with bumper designs, and embellished its infotainment with phone-friendly Apple CarPlay tech. Anyone in the market for a Golf GTI should drive the GTi, it stands as a proper hot-hatch with a premium feel and a pinch of French flair that might be all difference.
More grunt, but weíd downsize
IF YOUíVE HEARD the old-school bark coming out of the back of a Jaguar F-Type V6 S, the thought of that engine in a stylish four-door sedan for $50K less probably sounds pretty appealing. For the 2018 model year, Jaguar has extracted an extra 30kW at the top end from the XE Sís 3.0-litre supercharged V6, matching the S version of its sexier two-door sibling. Sadly, y, something has been lost in translation. Itís a smooth, linear engine with plenty ty of power, but it doesnít have that same sensual rasp as it does in the F-Type Ėmaybe Jaguar reckons sedan buyers donít want something that rowdy? Otherwise, XE changes are limited to upgraded interior finishes, extra active e safety options, virtual TFT instruments and the option of dual-view for the infotainment, allowing the screen to show sat-nav and video at the same time depending on the angle viewed. Thereís plenty to like about the XE package, with handsome styling, a pleasant ride and balanced handling, but we suspect the engine that best exploits these attributes is the new 221kW/400Nm Ingenium 2.0-litre turbo four, which weighs almost 100kg less than the V6 S and can be had from just $70,200.