Sometimes, things that look cute aren’t what they seem. Like the scorpion that adorns its badge, the Abarth 595 Competizion is more lethal than its cutesy looks would have you believe.
While its roots date back to the 1950s, Abarth is arguably made famous by angry little versions of the little Fiat 500, such as the one we have on test here.
With an all-new electric model already on sale in Europe and about to be introduced in Australia, our MY22 595 Competizion is based on the fourth-generation Fiat 500 first introduced in 2008, and then facelifted in 2016.
Further, the 595 has now been rebadged the 695 Competizion for 2023. However, under the bonnet of the rebadged model beats the same 1.4L turbocharged T-Jet heart churning out 132kW and 250Nm of torque.
Priced from $36,250 when new, the 595 isn’t cheap for what is essentially a 3-door city hatch. But you do get a healthy amount of kit.
Standard equipment includes:
- 17-inch alloys Monte Carlo alloy wheels,
- Single-zone climate control
- A cutesy (small!) 7.0-inch touchscreen
- USB Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Digital radio
- Voice control
- Digital instrument cluster
- Suede upholstered sports seats
- Leather steering wheel with carbon fibre trim inserts
And while the Abarth 595 Competizione has a decent amount of standard kit inside, the same can’t be said about its safety features, which could be a deal breaker for some.
As it’s based on a model that was first introduced in 2008, active driver assist systems like AEB (autonomous emergency braking), blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, driver attention detection and even reversing camera are all missing.
The only safety kit you get are seven airbags, ABS, electronic stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors and a set of Brembo brakes. You also get a tyre repair kit in lieu of a spare tyre.
Our test car is also equipped with nearly $10,000 worth of extras bringing the price to a dizzying $45,700 before on road costs.
Options installed include:
- $2,500 Premium Pack with
- Bi-xenon headlights with headlight washers
- Panoramic glass sunroof
- $2,500 Sport Pack with
- Suede/leather Sparco bucket seats
- Black finished 17-inch Supersport Matte black alloy wheels
- $2,500 Competizione Body Kit with extended side skirts and wheel arches
- $350 Yellow brake callipers
- $1,600 ‘Rally Blue’ matte exterior paint
Rivals include the talented Hyundai i20 N and VW Polo GTi, both of which are more powerful at around 150kW, while the i20 N also undercuts the 595 by a small margin.
Importantly, they feature up-to-date safety equipment including autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, cruise control, reversing camera, and LED headlights.
So, does the Abarth 595 Competizione justify its price tag or does emotion comes into play more here. Let’s find out.
The first thing that tickles your emotions with the 595 is its engaging engine that always entices you to push it to the max. The noise coming out of the other end is equally as addictive, and arguably, the most appealing feature of the 595. It sounds especially menacing in an enclosed carpark, as though a Mercedes AMG is approaching.
There’s a reason enthusiasts spend up big on exhausts system as they not only bring improved performance, but crucially aural pleasure synonymous with sports cars. The 595 nails this in big spades, thanks to its standard active exhaust system. Its dramatic and deep growl is loud, much louder than what you’d expect from an average hot hatch. There are no pops or crackles but we hardly missed it.
So awesome is the 595’s exhaust!
While the 1.4L T-jet turbocharged four-cylinder may produce ‘just’ 132kW of power at 5,500rpm and 250Nm of torque at 3,000rpm, the 595 weighs just 1,045kg. The Hyundai i20 N in comparison tips the scale at 1,213kg, giving the Abarth 595 a power-to-weight ratio of 126.3kW per tonne against the i20 N’s 123.7.
There’s minor turbo lag but it’s generally not noticeable and only adds to the old school charm of the little Italian hot hatch.
Its aluminium pedals are closed enough for easy toe-and-heel driving, even for someone who isn’t at all good at it like me. However, the downside is they are so close you could sometimes brush against the brake pedal when engaging the clutch, causing the car to bunny hop embarrassingly.
The close ratio and short-geared five-speed manual is a delight to row through, with a linear and light clutch and good take up point.
Hitting the Abarth scorpion button enlists the Sport mode which opens up the exhaust even more, unleashing an even more angry exhaust note. It also firms up the adaptive suspension a little, although the difference is almost negligible in practice because the 595’s default suspension setup is quite firm to start with.
On rutted and corrugated freeways, the ride can be uncomfortable for some. Road noise can also be a little loud at high speeds, although it’s less of an issue around town.
However, the firm suspension does mean better corner tackling ability and the 595 excels in this regard. Combined with a short wheel, the little Abarth chews up corners like a go-cart with high entry and exit speeds and hardly any body roll whatsoever.
The large diameter steering wheel also provides great feedback, telling you in minute detail where the nose is pointed, while the Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tyres offers excellent grip.
It’s great fun!
Be warned however, the 595 has one of the largest turning circles we’ve encountered, making it more challenging than you might think to do a U-turn.
Most people get a hot hatch for its duality of personality – fun, yet practical. Not the Abarth 595, unfortunately.
There isn’t much storage in the 595 except for the glovebox – which is quite deep and useful – and a tiny storage cubby under the driver’s side air vent. Other than that, the door pockets are small and there is no centre console storage bin.
It doesn’t get much better in the boot either, with just 185L of space. You’ll struggle to get a shopping trolley in there without folding the rear seats, which expands coverage to 550L.
There is a pair of rear seats but they are quite small and only really suitable for small children with limited head- and legroom. There are small armrests built into the side of the car for the rear passengers and they each get a cupholder.
In terms of infotainment, the 595 comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen running Stellantis Group’s ‘U-Connect’ OS. It’s a relatively straight forward and intuitive system with a bunch of shortcut menus at the bottom of the screen to make navigating between menu easier.
The system also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto albeit via USB connection. Due to its small size, it’s almost as if you’re using your own phone with small icons and map (there is no embedded sat-nav).
Abarth claims the 595 Competizione will return a combined average fuel consumption of 5.8L/100km, and after a week of fun with the Abarth, we averaged 8.2L/100km of premium unleaded juice.
Unlike most of its peers, Abarth offers only a three-year or 150,000km warranty as opposed to 5-year unlimited kilometre, which is the industry norm these days. Service intervals are on par at every 12 months or 15,000km.
However, you’ll have to be prepared to dig deep as the 595 Competizione’s average service cost is nearly $660 over five years.
Design & Comfort
Performance & Handling
Equipment & Features
- Huge grin factor
- Enormously addictive exhaust note
- Excellent handling
- Lack of active safety assist features
- Not very practical
- Expensive for a small car
There’s no denying the Abarth 595 Competizione is expensive for what is essentially a small city car. But it comes with a huge attitude to match its price tag. And let’s not forget that intoxicating and angry exhaust note!
There is a lot to like about the 595 and despite some compromise on safety equipment and practicality, it’s hard not to fall in love with this little Italian hot hatch. Its old school charm and riveting handling will always put a smile on your face.
2023 Abarth 595 Competizione pricing and specifications
|Price (excluding on-road costs):
As tested: $45,700
|3 years/150,000 kilometre
|Warranty Customer Assistance:
|3 year roadside
|Country of Origin:
|Italy. Built in Poland
|1.4-litre turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder multi-point injected petrol:
132kW @ 5,500rpm, 250Nm @ 3,000rpm
|Power-to-Weight Ratio (kW/t):
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):
|Claimed: 5.8/Tested: 8.2
|Fuel Capacity (L):
|3-door hatchback, 4 seats
|Boot Space (min/max) (L):
|Tare Mass (kg):
|Towing Capacity (kg):
|7.0-inch colour touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+, Bluetooth, Wired Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, 2x USB-A, AUX