The look of luxury? Abarth and yacht builder Riva combine for the special 695 Rivale
Nothing more than a marketing exercise, another ‘special’ when standard cars are the exception? But nobody seemed to mind Mazda rolling out model after model of limited-edition MX-5s.
The Abarth 695 Rivale is a celebration of the creative talents of Carlo and Carlo: Abarth and Riva, the famous yacht designer.
But did this need to be an Abarth, let alone the highest-strung 695? The around-town comfort of a TwinAir would surely be better to nip from the harbour to the local Monaco supermarché.
The 695 has a longer history than many would expect, having first been unleashed on the world as a bonkers 87mph, flared-arch 500 in 1964.
Various special 695s have been produced recently, such as the Biposto and the Tributo Ferrari – both a full £10k more expensive than this Rivale. They were rarer, but only 350 will be made of this – 175 each in soft- and hardtop.
As expected, the sound from its throaty exhaust, ‘sport’ mode enabled and valve opened, is addictive. Roll back the convertible roof and it sounds even sweeter.
Exhausts first made Abarth’s name and money, yet this uses a carbon Akrapovič pipe rather than Abarth’s own Monza system.
While you’ll have unobstructed aural access with the roof down, the same cannot be said of vision because the roof piles high on the Mini-like boot and fills the rear-view mirror with a ribbed squab of blue.
With the roof up road noise is loud, at times intrusively. But that is a small price to pay for the unique hook of the 695: barrelling roof-down motoring in a hot hatch.
Its two-tone Riva Blue and Grey livery looks great and the scores of Abarth drivers on the road will eye it with envy.
They will know exactly what it is, too, because while those owners are numerous, they are also enthusiastic in their ownership and love of the brand and cars.
Inside, you can choose from a nautical nod of mahogany or sportier carbonfibre trims, its steering wheel is huge and there’s a customisable plate for the name of your yacht – attached via screws used by Riva.
A turbo gauge sits proud on the dash, too, flashing and flicking away madly.
The car is quick, though its turbocharged 1.4 T-Jet engine’s 180bhp and 0-60mph of 6.7 secs makes it shy of rivals, in both figures and in number of gears (the Rivale has only five).
But it feels faster, at times alarmingly so, lighting up your eyes and broadening your smile.
This £26,000 compact hot hatch is undoubtedly the best-sounding of its type and matches it with arrestingly old-school, careful-where-you-tread performance unlike any other.
Images: Will Williams