Do you have that particular friend, one who takes nights on frustrating tangents...
Forgets their wallet, makes being in public slightly embarrassing, yet without fail, is the first friend you call before rounding up the troops, simply because you’re guaranteed a kidney-squeezing laugh?
Well, that’s what it feels like with the Series 3 Abarth in your driveway. The car, like its predecessor, is such ludicrous fun you almost forget it’s pragmatically less than ideal.
For instance, if your commute’s of decent length, you might be unimpressed that cruise control hasn’t manifested in the Series 3 update.
You might also be disappointed to learn other luxuries like a reversing camera and keyless anything (except locking) aren’t present – admittedly, if you need a reversing camera to park such a diminutive car you shouldn’t be driving.
You will, however, be pleased to hear the price has been lowered during the range’s reshuffle. Gone is the 500 EsseEsse nameplate and in its place are the ‘595 Turismo’, which can be optioned in a two-tone paint job, and the ‘595 Competizione’. The former lowers the starting bid for an Abarth to $33,500 by forgoing trick bits that lift the Competizione’s price by $3000.
What bits? The premium Competizione gets fitted with Sabelt seats that annoyingly have their back adjusters nigh inaccessible between the seat and door. And while they hug like a corset, they’re also great at sending your thigh muscles to sleep. It gets ‘auto air-conditioning’ (aka climate control) too, and five-spoke diamond-finish alloys that lack the menace of the ten-spokers.
The Competizione’s meal ticket is its “Record Monza” exhaust. Turn the engine over and it barks angrily, emitting a flatulent but rorty note through its quad tailpipes. Prod the aluminium pedals, another luxury the Competizione scores, and it’s hard to believe a 1.4-litre could sound so malevolent. It sounds awesome.
Slot first with the new spherical metal knob, release the soft clutch and while the engine’s running rich during warm-up, shift quickly on part-throttle and you’ll be greeted by a cracking pop as the little Competizione does its best WRC impersonation. The whole experience, along with the car’s adjustable attitude in corners, is a recipe for thrills that leaves you laughing like The Joker.
It’s so fun, you might forget that the Abarth 595, a car of minute proportions, still needs the moon’s orbit to complete a U-turn. Or that it compromises on ride for great body control, or how the auto Competizione gets dangerously close in price to Golf GTI territory.
The Abarth 595 is still that genuine mood-enhancing friend, but like any high time, reality’s never far away.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Engine: 1368cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 118kW @ 5500rpm
Torque: 230Nm @ 3000rpm
0-100km/h: 7.4sec (claimed)