Abarth used to translate as Italian for expensive. Not any more
WHAT IS IT?
The cheapest Abarth ever offered in Australia. The Abarth 595 is the new entry point to Fiat’s performance-focused line-up, and is designed to bridge the gap between the regular 500 range and the existing, and more expensive, Abarth models.
WHY WE’RE DRIVING IT
Because on paper the 595 has the potential to be the pick of the current Abarth range. It’s not only significantly cheaper, but promises improved comfort and usability thanks to a softer ride and smaller 16-inch wheels.
Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI, Peugeot 208 GTI, Renault Clio RS
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Finally, an Abarth model with a sane price tag. The Abarth 595 retains the brand’s feisty Italian dynamics and peppy personality, but brings a welcome dose of affordability and comfort.
PLUS: Fun and funky; accessible price; improved comfort; dynamics
MINUS: Interior plastics; no reversing camera; cabin ergonomics; noise
THE WHEELS REVIEW
ABARTH versions of the Fiat 500 are, you can easily imagine, the Jack Russells of the motoring world. Small and cute, yet at the same time tough, they’re pint-sized bundles of energy and performance constantly pulling at the lead to mount your mate’s leg.
Now there’s a new one, and things aren’t quite so froth-at-the-mouth manic.
It’s simply called the Abarth 595 and on the surface it’s hard to tell what’s different. There’s the same aggressive Abarth bodykit, the same turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine and the same retro-funky interior.
The biggest change is to the price.
Starting at $27,500 for the five-speed manual version (auto adds $2000), this is the cheapest Abarth ever offered in Australia, undercutting the previous entry point by a hefty $6500.
The performance is also designed to be more approachable. The 1.4-litre has been detuned slightly to produce 103kW and 206Nm (15kW/24Nm less than the $34K Abarth Turismo) and the sports suspension, which comprises Koni frequency-dependant dampers up front and a torsion beam rear, has been softened, while the 595 rolls on 16-inch wheels, not 17s like the rest of the Abarth range.
The promise is the best of both worlds: tiny hot-hatch fun that’s easier and more comfortable to use every day, at a more affordable price. And that’s what you get, mostly.
The ride treads a brilliant line between sporty tautness and everyday suppleness, the handling is sharp, chuckable and engaging, and the turbo four is rorty and eager, despite its diminutive-sounding outputs.
Is it as sharp as a Fiesta ST or as polished as a Polo GTI? No, but in isolation the 595 is a hoot.
What’s lacking is the crack and pop from the exhaust you get in other Abarths, and the seating position is too high for a performance car.
At least the cloth bucket seats are supportive, though (like the entire cabin) they might be a little narrow for some drivers. And then there are the rear pews, which are big enough only for small children or friends you don’t like very much.
Interior design is typical 500 funky, but is showing its age. Abarth versions are based on pre-facelift versions of the 500, so there’s no centre touchscreen, no reversing camera or cruise control, and the infotainment system is outdated. The plastics on the dash and doors aren’t up to standard, either.
Yet somehow these faults aren’t enough to dull the 595’s sheen. Its blend of personality, pointy performance, greater compliance and improved value make it a hugely likeable hot hatch.
Model: Fiat Abarth 595
Engine: 1368cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Power: 103kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 206Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-100km/h: 7.9sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 6.0L/100km
On sale: Now