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by Tim Beissmann

The 2011 Abarth 500 Esseesse micro hot hatch has landed in Australia with a tempting price tag just south of $35,000.

At $34,990 before statutory charges, delivery and dealer costs, the 500 Esseesse will cost $7200 more than the three-door Volkswagen Polo GTI, which is more powerful and more fuel-efficient.

Abarth’s Australian distributor, Ateco Automotive, will be hoping the dramatic styling, Italian sporting pedigree and extra features in the Esseesse will be enough to convince buyers to part with the extra dollars.

The Abarth 500 Esseesse is powered by a 118kW/230Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine – meaning it has 44kW/99Nm more power than the standard Fiat 500 and 19kW/24Nm more than the standard Abarth 500.

Acceleration from 0-100km/h comes up in 7.4 seconds and its top speed is 211km/h – 3.0 seconds and 29km/h quicker than the standard Fiat 500, respectively.

Despite the added power and pace, combined cycle fuel consumption increases just 0.2 litres/100km compared with the Fiat, and is exactly the same as the Abarth 500 at 6.5 litres/100km.

The Esseesse is a front-wheel drive with a five-speed manual transmission. It sits on unique 17-inch Abarth alloy wheels wrapped in either P Zero Black or Michelin Pilot Exalto rubber.

Other exterior highlights include the red brake calipers, front fog lights, side skirts, rear spoiler and Abarth side stripe and mirror kit.

Standard interior features include automatic climate control with pollen filter, rear privacy glass, height-adjustable flat-bottomed black leather sports steering wheel, black leather gearknob, front sports seats with memory, 50:50 split folding rear seats, racing pedals and footrest and a Sport button with boost function.

The Interscope audio system incorporates a CD player with Blue&Me Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Safety is a strong suit with seven airbags, ABS with EBD and hydraulic brake assist, Torque Transfer Control, ESP with ASR traction control, Hill Holder, gear shift indicator, tyre pressure monitor and high performance drilled and ventilated brake discs.

Abarth Australia expects to deliver 200 Esseesse vehicles in 2011 – the first two shipments are already spoken for – and plans to increase sales to 300 in 2012.