Why doesn’t HKS cater to European and foreign cars in general? That’s a question I had in my mind for years, and one I’d asked the HKS guys multiple times in the past. Their replies were always much the same, conservative acknowledgements that it was something the company was contemplating.
But with so many non-Japanese cars turbocharged from factory these days – and more Japanese buyers interested in them than ever before – HKS shifting some of their R&D focus to overseas vehicles was always going to happen. And now it has.
Despite their late entry into the Euro car tuning market, HKS is here with ‘VIITS’, an imaginative play on the three letters that make up the HKS name (click here to see the animation to get a better idea). From this year on, the VIITS name will accompany all HKS products with a non-Japanese car focus.
HKS is kicking things off with a VIITS-enhanced Abarth 595. At first I thought this model was a strange choice, but when factoring in its huge popularity here in Japan for over a decade now, it actually makes perfect sense.
This 595 Competizione represents the creme of the new Abarth crop currently being offered in Japan, but the VIITS products on offer are compatible with older variants of the 500’s ‘Scorpion’ range, which are flooding the market in Japan. If you’re a younger driver here looking to get into a fun, manual, turbocharged hatchback, the hot 500 would have to be on your shortlist.
What HKS offers via VIITS is a range of parts to further sharpen this Italian pocket rocket, starting off with a suspension upgrade.
HKS have developed a model-specific set of height adjustable coilovers able to fine-tune the 500’s handling performance and take full advantage of wheel and tire upgrades – in this case 17×7.5-inch Advan Racing TC-4s wrapped up in 205/40R17 Yokohama Advan Flevia V701s. If the car had been built for track duty first and foremost, Advan Neova AD09s would have surely been HKS’s choice, but with this first round of introductory modification for the VIITS brand, they’ve focussed on the light upgrades most customers will end up doing.
In its stock form the little 1.4-liter turbocharged four that powers up the Abarth’s front wheels puts out 180PS. On their in-house, HKS recorded 160.9PS at the tires, a believable figure when you take into account some driveline loss.
Utilizing the VIITS boost controller, HKS have introduced a tiny hike in turbo pressure – 1.38kg/cm (19.62psi) stock to 1.48 kg/cm (21.04psi). While the resulting 6.3PS power gain at the wheels (167.2PS total) seems minute on paper, in the real world – or in my case, hooning the car around HKS’s private test road at their HQ facility – switching between settings I noticed smoother in-gear boost pick up and a bump in mid-range torque that really refines the 595’s driving feel.
While having a nose around under the hood, I caught a glimpse of the VIITS coilovers’ adjustable top mounts. It was good to see that there is scope to dial in a lot more negative camber for those that would favour an aggressive setup for more spirited driving.
The sharp and responsive way the VIITS 595 steers and hangs on around corners is impressive, but the thing that left a real lasting impression on me was the enhanced exhaust note. The VIITS complete system features an integrated electronic valve to automatically manage flow into the mid-silencer, in so ridding the car of its factory low-rpm drone and raspy, overly loud sound at start-up.
The bulk of the sound has been engineered to come in the midrange, where you’d want it to be. This adds just the right loudness and tone to the 595 without further emphasizing the factory-engineered echoey, almost over-manufactured burble.
It sits right, looks the part and has plenty of performance to keep the adrenaline flowing. Most of all though, it reminded me just how much fun it is to throw light, manual transmission-equipped cars around.
This is definitely what we need more of, but unfortunately Fiat thinks otherwise. The Abarth 595 won’t be getting a successor when it’s discontinued – the new 500 will only come in EV form.
After spending some time with the VIITS 595, I’d really love to see HKS take it to the next level. It’s just begging for a turbo upgrade and an extra wallop of power. Not much, 50 to 80PS more would make it so much fun.
For now though, it’s a perfect introduction to VIITS. Will we be seeing HKS-modified BMW M4s and Porsche Turbos in the near future? I certainly hope so. It makes so much sense and is something I’m sure all enthusiasts would welcome with open arms.