Cars like the Abarth 595 Competizione are a rare breed due to the rarity of potential buyers. There’s not a whole lot of people out there looking for a minuscule city car that throws what little practicality it had out the window in the name of blistering performance. Those that know exactly what they want in life and are willing to make the $31,990 sacrifice will be rewarded with one of the most enjoyable hot hatch driving experiences available.
Just a glance at the Abarth 595 Competizione and you can tell it’s a car that’s completely loaded with personality and charm. The subtle retro styling inherited from the Fiat 500 has been amped up with aggressive front and rear bumpers along with skirts and the roof mounted wing. Our model sports the optional white side strip and door mirror covers, aluminium roof cap antenna and 17-inch supersport matte black wheels.
If you’re willing to squeeze your wallet extra hard you’ll find a whole range of visual customisation options that can tailor your already unique Abarth to your exact style.
The Italian charm and styling isn’t lost on the interior either, there’s so many small details and additions that make the whole package resonate with enthusiasts. Not content with a simple leather wheel, Abarth has used a carbon fibre frame then trimmed it with Alcantara and perforated leather, it’d be right at home on any $300,000 plus supercar. The same could be said for the $2,000 optional Sabelt seats, they too are clad in Alcantara and leather with a rock solid carbon fibre shell to hold it all together.
Up on the dash sits the impossible to ignore boost gauge that’ll climb to 1.75 bar on full boost at which point you really should be focused on what’s in front of you. The instrumentation cluster itself transforms in sport mode to put the focus on the tachometer but due to the abundance of red and small size it’s a challenge to keep track of your revs when the hammer is down.
With such a tight and compact interior it seems odd that such a large bezel surrounds the 5-inch infotainment touchscreen display robbing valuable potential screen real estate. Such a small screen struggles to be all that useful but it does feature satellite navigation and digital radio through its basic interface.
Given that the 595 Competizione is based on the Fiat 500 platform which is pushing 11 years of service there’s going to be some much needed improvements. Most notable is the ergonomic situation. To adjust the seat angle you’ll need to open the door to reach the dial as the seats are that close to the doors. Instead of simply placing the power window switches near the window like every other car ever, in the 595 Competizione they’re mounted in the center console and retraining muscle memory is easier said than done.
The driving position isn’t perfect either as the steering column has no telescopic adjustment and the seats sit high up. You’ll also have to take extra care with the pedals too, they’re so close together it’s not uncommon to accidentally stomp on the brake and clutch simultaneously.
None of these issues is a deal breaker and once you’ve had a taste of the performance you’ll even start to rationalise them away, such is the charm of the 595 Competizione.
At low revs the power from the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine won’t blow your mind, it does sound amazing given that there’s no muffler to speak of giving off a deep rorty note. If you can stay off boost you should even get decent fuel economy, our best figure being 7.6L/100km against the 6L/100km factory rating. Keep your foot in it to build up the boost and push past 3500rpm and it transforms into an entirely different animal screaming all the way up to the redline.
Launching from a stop with the almost on off power delivery can be tricky requiring a lack of mechanical sympathy to achieve best results. Being such a light car the 132kW of power available doesn’t need to work hard at all to drag the barely 1 ton Italian around. Washing off the speed falls to the 305mm drilled rotors clamped down by Brembo callipers. Excellent pedal feel is provided and stopping distances are surprisingly short. Better yet is that the brakes will do the task at hand over and over without a hint of brake fade making the 595 Competizione turn key track ready.
While the 5-speed manual gearbox gate could be a bit tighter there were no problems working through the gears. They’re clearly defined and the light clutch pedal will keep your legs happy, too.
The greatest strength to the 595 Competizione lies in its cornering ability. Light and nimble with a firm ride and hardly any body roll to speak of make this little hot hatch a beast through the twisty bits. Push it right to the limit and you’ll be greeted with manageable understeer and a touch of torque steer on full blast as you shoot out from the corner apex.
It’s also at these limits that you’ll discover the weakness of those gorgeous looking seats. There’s just not enough shoulder support to sink into them to hold you steady once things get serious.
After you’re done turning every road into a Monte Carlo rally stage and switched off the instrument cluster G-meter you’ll have time to enjoy the small gathering of creature comforts included. Keeping your ears entertained falls to a solid sounding 6-speaker sound system that can pipe through music via Digital Radio, USB/AUX and Bluetooth.
Even with the decent visibility of the 595 Competizione, ease of parking is enhanced via rear parking sensors though be wary of the large turning circle thanks to the more performance orientated suspension geometry.
Safety is bumped up with a 7 airbag setup that includes curtain airbags and front seatbelts with pretensioners though there is no official safety rating currently available.
The list of toys and tech to play with is short but you’ll be so busy playing with the car itself that you’ll barely miss them and more likely curse the extra weight they bring to the party.
Design and Comfort: 7.0/10
Performance and Handling: 9.0/10
Equipment and Features: 6.0/10
There’s little competition available for the Abarth 595 Competizione, it stands alone proudly as a completely capable bonkers little hot hatch that can deliver all the adrenaline of its bigger more powerful rivals at a tasty price. There’s no need for me to keep singing praises for it, get yourself over to your nearest dealer, take one for a spin and try not to let it charm you into wanting one.
- Total pocket rocket
- Stylish Italian charm inside and out
- Well priced
- Ergonimics need work
- Tiny infotainment display
- Seats require additional shoulder support
2018 Abarth 595 Competizione Manual Price and Specification
|Price (Excl. on-road costs):||From: $31,990|
As tested: $35,340
|Warranty:||3 years/150,000 kilometers|
|Country of Origin:||Italy. Manufactured in Poland|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/15,000km|
|Engine:||1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol:|
132kW @ 5,500rpm, 250Nm @ 3,000rpm
|Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg):||126.3|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 6.0 / Tested: 7.6|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||35|
|Body:||3-door hatchback, 4 seats|
|Safety:||7 Airbags, ABS, BA, ESC, TCS, seatbelt pretensioners/load limiters|
|Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm:||3657/1627/1485/2300|
|Tare Weight (kg):||1045|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||n/a|
|Entertainment:||5-inch touchscreen, DAB+, Bluetooth/USB/Aux input, 6 speaker stereo|