Abarth 595 Competizione Turbo
The Abarth 595 Competizione Turbo hot hatch is the racing upgrade of the Fiat 500. Taking a city run around and turning into a pocket rocket, but is it more than just a bigger engine? The short answer is yes. In essence, it may look somewhat odd, but it brings exceptional entertainment and driving pleasure in a compact form.
Abarth has been souping up Fiat 500’s since the fifties and turning out their version since the sixties. You can think of this as the result of many years of fine-tuning and expertise.
The Competizione has a Turbo 1.4 litre T-Jet, straight 4 cylinders petrol engine, serving a graceful 180 bhp with 250 Nm of torque. It does 0-62 mph in 6.7 seconds with the manual gearbox, reaching a top speed of 140 mph, somewhere other than UK roads, obviously. You can also have the five-speed robotised sequential gearbox, and both come with the dual-mode Record Monza exhaust and four tailpipes. Yes, it’s not far off a church organ in musical range. Combined fuel consumption is 36.7 mpg.
The exterior is a conical or comical shape, reminiscent of the bowler hat, so popular with City bankers up to the eighties, but it does have a certain charm and style of its own. The ultimate town car, but souped-up to racing standards. It has upgraded front and rear dampers, lowered sports suspension and a mechanical limited-slip differential. Red Brembo brakes come as standard, plus 17-inch Supersport alloy wheels with P Zero tyres. So the really important bits that connect you to the road are top-notch. The Record Monza exhaust sound can be actioned or muted at the touch of a button, to let people far away know you’re coming (very, very far away). The four exhaust pipes at the back add a further racing pedigree.
The interior is fashionably designed a la retro-modern. Lots of strong circular elements and swooping lines. The shiny bulbous door handles with a flash of red are a good touch too.
Standard features are excellent, CarPlay and Android are included along with 7" touchscreen radio with Satnav, Bluetooth, USB, Aux-in and audio that all function perfectly. The sports seats are impressive, Alcantara lined carbon fibre shells, though they could be more supportively shaped.
The racing pedals are delightful to action, if slightly close together, and the flat bottomed electric sports steering wheel is tactile and responsive. The interior is still too plastic for my liking, a few extra quality material surfaces here and there would complement the overtly stylish racing design. The boot is smallish but good enough for the shopping and the rear seats will just about fit two normal-sized adults.
I love the “robot eye” turbo meter on the dash, a deliberately over the top “look at me, I’m turbo” feature. I love watching the needle dance as the engine roar climbs the decibels. There are seven airbags, anti-whiplash headrests and electronic stability control. Mine also had the BeatsAudio™ system: 480 watts, digital eight-channel amplifier with two dome tweeters installed in the front pillars, two midwoofers in the front doors, two full-range speakers in the rear side panels and one subwoofer in the boot.
There is an optional electric soft top too.
The performance certainly takes you by surprise. Nothing this shape should be that impressive, either in a straight line or around corners. It’s like a cute cuddly bear suddenly ripping a Doberman apart, it’s a bit unsettling. Sports cars are supposed to be low on the ground, with large haunches and a mean front grill suggesting sharp teeth, at the very least.
The lowered sports suspension, upgraded dampers, 17-inch carbon alloys plus the 180 bhp really gives it some welly. Plus the diminutive size makes it feel like a super-powered go-kart. You’re low enough to feel the road zip past, and the toughened suspension means you can read the road like a pro. The explosive, crackling exhaust adds audio to the landscape as it whizzes by. Heck, I was even enjoying shifting the manual gears.
The gearbox is fast and responsive at high and low revs. The manual shift is a blast, genuinely affording absolute control to the driver. The Abarth made me rethink my disdain for manual gearboxes off track. The gear lever is superbly designed and solid, if disturbingly phallic, but get over that and it’s a pleasure to shift around.
I found the cornering infinitely better than expected, sure-footed and nimble. The lower chassis keeps it glued to the ground, and the higher seating position imparts great visibility and an impeccable view of the road ahead. The sports wheel is sensitive and confident, assuring effortless line control. It’s front-wheel drive, so you can speed in and out of corners pulling yourself forward with nimble alacrity. The engine sits over the front wheels, adding weight to the traction, which also means better performance in bad weather.
It rules in town or city journeys. The size is enormously convenient. Brilliant for parking, you always have tons of space and can drive straight in, no realigning. Narrow country roads appear spaciously accommodating and reversing or u-turns are flipping simple.
In essence, the Abarth 595 Competizione brings supercar driving pleasure albeit in a scaled-down form. But the thrill is just as real. It’s as much fun as a supercar, without the bills and the bother. A car for the real world, that accelerates like a pocket rocket between 0-70 mph, performs like a Scalextric track car, with excellent grip on the road and rock steady cornering.
If you enjoy manual shift control in conjunction with sensitive acceleration and jaw-dropping road-handling then you will love this car. A daily drive that brings racecar handling to the everyday commute.
Unlike a supercar that is overpowered for normal roads, this brings all the fun of racing within acceptable limits for daily enjoyment. Some will turn their heads at the sound of the engine and be disappointed, but those who know will appreciate the power and performance under the little hood. The 595 Competizione turns every road into a go-kart track. A thrilling daily driving experience
What the Abarth 595 Competizione does best is match stress-free driving around town, with excellent acceleration and fun on country roads. It’s got a good Zen thing going on. Don’t worry, be happy.
Starting price OTR: £ 21,795.00
• Metallic Paint - £550 • Hi-Fi by BEATS - £350 • Aluminium Scorpion Antenna Plug - £100 • Brembo Brake Calipers: Yellow - £175 • Side-Stripes, Bumper Inserts & Door Mirrors: Black - £200
This model with options: £ 23,170.00