Fiat 500 Abarth esseesse vs. RenaultSport Clio Gordini 200

Why the comparison?

Both cars are seriously warmed-up versions of run-of-the-mill hatchbacks, but that's not all. Each one has also been tuned even further by its respective company's performance arm: Abarth for the 500 and RenaultSport for the Clio. Each of those organisations have more motorsport street cred than is strictly healthy, so they render these hatchbacks more desirable than most.

How are they similar?

They may be humble hatchbacks, but both cars offer the kind of pace that can put all manner of more expensive and prestigious sporting cars to shame. The Fiat, with its 157bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, will hit 62mph in 7.4 seconds, while the Renault has a 2.0-litre 197bhp engine and will scorch to 62mph in a mere 6.9 seconds.

Equally, it's not all about straight line speed with either one. Both the Clio and the 500 have copious amounts of grip during cornering and they'll keep hanging on to the tarmac long after most other cars would have let go and headed for the scenery.

A garish exterior is also a hallmark of both models. The Fiat is available in red or white, with contrasting go faster stripes that contain an Abarth logo to leave you in doubt as to what it is. In a similar vein, the Clio Gordini is a finished in a resplendent blue with matching spokes on its alloy wheels and a pair of white stripes running along its bonnet and roof.

How do they differ?

The Renault is obviously slightly larger than the Fiat, so the French firm went for a bigger 2.0-litre engine to up the power - as opposed to the Fiat's smaller unit that instead relies on a turbocharger for its punch.

That means the 500 is easier to drive quickly, as once it has reached 3,000rpm, the turbo does all the work and it becomes very swift indeed. That's not to say the Clio is slow, but it thrives on a heavy right foot and big revs.

As these two are performance specials, it's no surprise that the ride is rather firm in both. The Renault is a little bouncy on rough surfaces, but no more so than we'd expect from a hot hatch of this nature. The Fiat, however, is firm to the point of being uncomfortable, and you may find yourself backing off just to avoid being thrown around inside the car.

As the Renault is the larger and more powerful car, it's also the more expensive and dearer to run at £19,650 and with 34.4mpg on average. In contrast, the Fiat's £16,655 and its average of 43.4mpg look much more attractive.

So which one would we have?

It's a tough call, and no doubt if you're already a Fiat or Renault fan then you'll have made up your mind already. It's not quite as quick, but the 500 is a lot cheaper and the running costs are easier to swallow, but the Clio isn't plagued with the Abarth's uncomfortable ride.

All things considered, we'd have the RenaultSport Clio. It's a tough one to justify though, as we've already mentioned the Clio Gordini's significantly higher list price. This also looks out of proportion next to the standard RenaultSport Clio, which starts at £16,710 (only £55 dearer than the 500 Abarth in esseesse guise). With that in mind, we'd be tempted to ditch the Gordini dressings - as well as the Fiat - and buy a standard RenaultSport Clio.

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