When you think of a supercar, you tend to think of huge, thundering great Ferraris or Lamborghinis, but a number of far more accessible (and affordable) manufacturers have begun to pack that supercar capability into the light and seemingly innocent bodies of cars such as the innocuous Ford Fiesta.
Indeed, the Fiesta ST might look much like a regular hatchback at first glance, but a closer look reveals its sports styling with a rear spoiler, accentuated side skirts and a much firmer, tougher look on the road. Inside the engine bay, the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine throws out an extraordinary 180bhp with Ford’s accredited tuners, Mountune, offering an upgrade to a whopping 217bhp for those who really want to push the boat out. The only problem is, it’ll still be a Ford Fiesta.
A little more badge cachet can be had with the Mini Cooper S, which has the option of a 2-litre four-cylinder turbo engine kicking out 189bhp and 206lb/ft of torque. Again, it’s a firm ride with switchable active dampers as an option, although a limited-slip differential isn’t included. Frankly, the 2-litre engine doesn’t feel like it has the kick of the previous Mini’s 1.6, which is pretty disappointing.
The Fiesta and the Mini are both credible options, but the only problem is that they both still feel like hot hatches. They’re good, make no mistake about that, but there’s something missing. Enter Fiat’s 695 Biposto, manufactured under the sporty Abarth badge. They’re pitching it as ‘the world’s smallest supercar’, and at first glance it does seem as though that may be pushing it a little bit. Frankly, it looks like a Fiat 500 with side skirts and a spoiler. But appearances can be deceiving...
As soon as you open the door in the Abarth you’re greeted by having to strap yourself into racing seats with four-point harnesses. There’s an H-patterned dog ring gearbox and the whole interior seems to be just slightly beyond what you’d find in any other hot hatch, making you feel like you’re sat in a real supercar. There’s only a 1.4-litre turbo under the bonnet, but that engine has come straight from Abarth’s Formula 4 single-seater series model. In short, it has a top speed of 143mph and will get to 60 in well under 6 seconds.
The Abarth is nippy through the corners and the gearbox is superbly manufactured to make driving the car a breeze. For real racers, gear changes can be done without using the clutch, but crunching can ensue if you don’t know what you’re doing. One downside to the Abarth is that it’s not cheap. Prices start at £32,955 and you’ll be shelling out upwards of £50,000 for the top model. Quite a bit for a car that’s only available in one colour.
The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, can be bought for as little as £17,250, with even the top model coming in at under £20,000. The Mini is a similar price, starting at £18,650 but rising to over £30,000 if you go for all the optional extras. Frankly, though, if money is an issue you probably shouldn’t be looking at cars with ‘super’ in the class name. For this reason alone, the Abarth wins it in our eyes.