Abarth 595 review
Abarth have a long and distinguished relationship with the Fiat 500, a car that has been reimagined in more ways than possibly any other. The first Abarth incarnation of the 500 was introduced at the Turin motor show back in 1963 and took Italy by storm.
When relaunching the rebranded 500, Abarth were eager to add their trademark brand of bite and exterior décor. Now no longer a Fiat, the Abarth 595 has the Esseesse engine upgrade pack, upgraded equipment and a tweaked chassis. Sub-divided into the top-spec Competizione and Tourismo grades, the sporty supermini is poised to take on the likes of the Ford Fiesta and new Mini Cooper – and it might just come out on top. So, why not check out the latest addition to the Perrys line-up and make your mind up for yourself?
Despite the car’s distinctive exterior aesthetic, the Abarth is constructed from the tyres up on Fiat’s production line at Tychy, Poland. Abarth focus on design, equipment and specifications while Fiat’s development team oversees the component selection and special engineering.
Is that enough to distinguish a brand in its own right? You only need a passing glance (or better, a spin behind the wheel) to realise that this goes far beyond a generic performance sub-brand. The 595 comes with 10 unique paintjobs: three in super-stylish two-tone and all with a generous slathering of urban chic. You can also choose between hard-top and soft-top, with the latter an obvious choice for a spin along the Mediterranean coasts.
The Abarth 595 is all about a strong, performance-based ethic, so the interior is not fussy or overstyled. The leather controls feel rough and ready, the panelling is hard and the stereo is quite retro.
Rear-seat space has had to give way to driver positioning, with passenger space making way for features such as raised Sabelt bucket seats, high-mounted aluminium alloy gearstick and dramatic indicator lever. Tech levels on even the most basic of the Competizione line is generous to say the least. Climate control, rear parking sensors, Microsoft Blue&Me Bluetooth and USB connectivity all come as standard, while sat-nav capacity and the Interscope sound system (with 100-watt subwoofer) are optional extras that are well worth considering.
On the road
This is where the Abarth racing brand can truly define itself: compared to the old Fiat 500, the Abarth 595 is, quite frankly, a wild animal.
Both the Competizione and Turismo grades have received the Essessse engine upgrade pack, adding some serious extra bite. Under the bonnet is a 1.4-litre T-Jet petrol engine with IHI RHF3-P turbocharger. This cranks up to 158bhp with 170lb ft torque when switched to Sport mode. Good, but not ground-breaking, you say? Well, factor in the power-to-weight ratio (the car is just 1035kg claimed, 1135kg as weighed) and you’ve got yourself a package that surpasses the SEAT Ibiza Cupra and Renaultsport Clio, as well as matching up to the Ford Fiesta ST.
Buyers can choose between five-speed manual and automatic transmissions, although initial tests suggest that the manual will give you improved responsiveness, at £1,300 cheaper. The Record Monza exhaust, another definitive feature available on the Competizione, gives off an excitable snarl and will be noticed long before your car zooms round the corner.
The ride in the 595 is optimised for performance, staying reactive (just short of jerky) with a feel for the road surface beneath. This makes the 595 a precise handler, with a direct and surprisingly driveable demeanour even at low speeds. With more flex than the Fiesta ST or Clio RS, lowered sports springs and 17-inch alloy wheels, the 595 is a highly responsive and ultimately enjoyable drive. And, with the car generating 43.3mpg, all this performance won’t break the bank on fuel.
So, all the signs suggest that Abarth have kicked off their association with Perrys and 2016 in general with a potent little number that adds a dash of excitement and unpredictability to an effortlessly stylish design classic.
Yes, the Abarth 595 adds an extra level to the price tag of the Fiat 500. But, with a host of chic new bodywork finishing options and a performance package that will quite literally knock the wind out of you, it’s worth it. The competing Fiesta ST supermini starts at just £17k – a bit less than the lower-spec Turismo. But the Competizione comes with Xenon headlights, tinted rear windows, climate control, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and the dual-mode exhaust system as standard – irresistible!