This is absurd. Irrational. A few sandwiches short of a picnic. Missing screws.

The Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari is acute psychosis in automotive form. Buyers would have to be insane to consider it as a realistic contender in the small hot-hatchback segment.

But – and this is a “but” as big as the heart of the little car – those who sign the dotted line might just be deeply, madly happy behind the wheel of this Italian.

Fiat 1

Justified insanity?

For your slice of limited-edition Abarth-Ferrari exclusivity, you will be relieved of R550 000. Only a handful have been brought over to South Africa, so the compact racer is big on collectibility.

Apart from bragging rights and a red key with the Ferrari moniker; what else justifies this steep asking price?

Carbon-fibre everything – from the door mirrors to the seats – adds lightness to the mix, Colin Chapman style.

It rides on large alloy wheels, whose design do a stellar job of accentuating the Brembo brake calipers. The Modena Yellow paint and duo of silver stripes are as you would find on a “real” Ferrari.

Like any range-topping Fiat, it has the Blue&Me connectivity system, standard with fiddly menus. It comes kitted with all the niceties you’d expect from a 21st Century car: climate control, steering wheel controls for the audio system and voice control.

Fiat 2

Riding the wave

All that sours the Tributo’s performance is significant lag on take-off.

Once past the initial lethargy in first gear, the turbocharger spools and there’s an enjoyable surge of power. Much like you’d experience in a Golf GTI with a DSG transmission, there’s a novel “snort” between gear upshifts.

A standard five-speed semi-automatic gearbox is standard. A deep, angry-sounding burble characterises the little Abarth. It snaps, crackles and pops as it hustles in and out of tight spaces in traffic. Imagine a wild beast afflicted with phlegmy bronchitis and you get the idea.

In the corners, the Abarth Tributo is a showcase of rebellion. Our test period saw the TTC electronic nanny system off permanently. Throttle-off oversteer was easily provoked. Torque-steer was experienced with a heavy foot too. Well-heeled folk considering this for their newly-licensed kin; be warned. It can get you into trouble.

Fiat 3

Hard knock life

Many moments of mirth can be expected on a secluded, sinuous road. But living with the bite-sized fighter in the city can be tough.

The suspension is hard – as you would expect. And those large alloy wheels don’t help its cause.

Even the most minor road imperfections are amplified. You’d better have a strong back if long-term ownership is what you’re after.

The Sabelt racing seats, with their carbon fibre base simply exacerbate the uncomfortable ride. After five days in the saddle, yours truly had a painful back spasm.

Ideally, this is a toy best reserved for the smooth environment of Phakisa, Zwartkops or Kyalami.

Hate it or love it

Assessing a car of this nature with the Critical Thinking hat is difficult.

The typical Abarth Tributo Ferrari buyer is one with a healthy bank balance. There’s probably an authentic Ferrari in the driveway already and this will serve as a fun weekend toy, or a chariot for those menial Sunday morning bread and milk runs.

It’s mad, hopelessly impractical and simply exorbitant. But after a stint behind the wheel, the smile it produces is priceless. This is something everyone would have on their Lottery purchase list.

As a sane decision it fares poorly. There’s no dearth of competent hot hatchbacks out there. And you’d be quite happy with a Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTi, or even a standard Fiat 500 Abarth with the Essesse kit.

Brenwin Naidu

The Technical Stuff: 

Model: 2013 Abarth 500 Tributo Ferrari

Price: R550 000

Engine: 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged

Power and Torque: 132kW and 280Nm

Fuel Consumption: 10l/100km

Test Mileage: 520 kilometres