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Perhaps you think it just a little odd that I should report on a test drive by taking to the water; not exactly. Let me explain- two highly respected companies in Italy, Riva and Abarth with a joint co-operation have produced an extremely desirable small car, the 695C Rivale.

Carlo Riva was an Italian motorboat designer and builder, famed for his luxurious runabouts. These are highly desired and the most famous Riva of all time was the Carlo Riva design called the Aquarama Special. Riva’s history dates back to 1842, when Pietro Riva began building boats at Sarnico, a small northern Italian town on the shores of Lago d’Iseo. By the 1930s, the business was managed by Pietro’s grandson, Serafino, and in the 1950s Serafino’s son Carlo transformed the business, and in due course the Riva brand became sought out by movie actors, royalty etc.

Famous customers included Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers. It is perhaps fitting that Abarth, a brand equally sought after, should collaborate with Riva to give the motoring world the 695C Rivale. Many who, like myself, are passionate about Italian cars will know that Abarth was founded by Italian-Austrian Carlo Abarth in 1949. The logo is one of the most distinctive in motoring- a shield with a stylised scorpion on a yellow and red background.

Today, Abarth is fully owned by FCA (which includes Fiat, Chrysler and Alfa Romeo). So you can just imagine my reaction when the opportunity came to test drive the 695C Rivale. I can best describe it as a pocket rocket dressed in a regal manner; this is one for those who really want to indulge in their motoring. Powered by a turbocharged 1368cc petrol engine it delivers 180bhp which is very handy for a car of such modest dimensions. Rest to 100kph (62mph) comes up in just 6.7 seconds and top end speed is 225kph (140mph). The power unit is linked to a five speed manual transmission, this combination delivers a heart warming sports sound when you lean on the accelerator- aided in no small way by the Akrapovic exhaust system. The pedals are so close that maybe some foot wear like ballet shoes could be the answer. In fact a word of caution; you do not want to touch the wrong pedal when you are soaking up the performance of this little Italian number.

In the looks department, just like a Riva boat, the 695C is a real head turner finished in a mix of Riva grey and blue and riding on seventeen inch gloss grey Supersport alloys and a soft top for sunny days. The blue theme continues to the interior with seats that really hold you in place and many of the features that we expect are all part of the package, a seven inch touch screen, sat nav, CarPlay/Android Auto etc. First glance and you just might think that this is a posey set of wheels, I suppose in a way it is; however the real fun begins when you start the engine. Road holding is akin to a competition car with suspension that is very firm. This aids handling of course, but with a short wheelbase you feel every bump in the road, so you have to simply accept that. The 695C Rivale is sheer fun; okay space is restricted, but I suspect those who are lucky enough to own one are not concerned, it will not be the sole car in the garage. Apparently it is not uncommon to see one on the rear of a luxury boat! Well, I suppose it makes a change from a helicopter!

Ian Lynas

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