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Fiat goes Abarth 595 – A 500 tailpipe full of chillies

By Nick Hodgson

It’s no secret that I’ve always liked the Fiat 500. Quirky, funky and full of flavour, I’ve always enjoyed spending time with one, particularly as they’re quintessentially Italian, i.e. everything that is good is offset by something that is bad. This naturally gives the 500 many talking points and is the essential ingredient to why people love Italian cars. If something is flawed, its human and can be loved. So now we have the Abarth 595 Competizione, a Fiat 500 that’s had multiple chillies rammed up its tailpipe as well as a whole rack of other genuine performance enhancements.

Dynamite comes in small packages.

Really small packages apparently. This Competizione version is top of the power spectrum for the 595, producing 132kw and 250Nm from its 1.4 turbo petrol and reaching 100 around the 6.7 mark. That’s not the only performance upgrades though as the entire suspension system has been given an overhaul with Koni FSD dampers, lowered springs and 205/40 tyres. Now the Fiat 500 underpinnings are never going to do the Abarth 595 any favours from a handling point of view, however the work done by the Abarth engineers has certainly gone a long way to mask any of the inherited problems. Throw the car through a few corners and the 595 hangs on gamely, but even with the proper mechanical limited slip differential that comes packaged with the top of the range Competizione it cannot match up to the cornering abilities of its peers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as I found these flaws to actually make the Abarth 595 a hoot and a half to throw around town at low speeds.

Take a seat for this part, if you can.

Here we find another one of the Abarth’s controversial party pieces, the carbon fibre Sabelt seats. Many reviewers seem to find them spoiling the party, whereas I found quite the opposite. Business-like they may indeed be, no cushy rides here I’m afraid, but extremely supportive and held me in place like glue. My biggest gripe with them is just how impractical they are. Abarth must own the world’s largest shoe horn as you need some serious leverage to crowbar these puppies in. This all leaves very little room for humans, whether you’ve drawn the backseat short-straw or the driver failing dismally to slide gracefully behind the wheel of this little Italian stallion and instead left wondering what kind of bizarre body proportions are required to achieve such a feat.

Good girl gone bad.

The rest of the interior is a kinkier version of the standard Fiat 500, with leather, alcantara and Abarth badges everywhere. In fact, the whole car has the same sort of vibe to it. A standard 500 is so cutesy and adorable you could never imagine it has a wild side, the Abarth 595 however is the rebellious one, once cute, but now actively flaunting new found sex appeal with abandon. It certainly sounds the part too. In fact you can hardly believe that there’s only a 1.4 turbo lurking under the bonnet and the god of fire and brimstone. Pops, growls and crackles explode from the Abarth 595 at start-up that’ll have everyone’s heads turning for miles around.

Method in the madness?

The Abarth 595 is tricky as if you play it sensible and stack the pros and cons you’re unlikely to end up buying one. But Abarth has never been about sensible and quite frankly you only get one life so why be boring? It’s exceptionally fun to drive and while the ride is rock hard it never reduced the size of the childlike grin on my face when honing about town. It looks fantastic, sounds phenomenal and while small, managed to fit a mountain bike in the back, making it practical in my books. At the end of the day most small hot hatches end up melding together in my mind as they’re all rather similar. The Abarth 595 will forever stand out from the crowd and I love that.

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