Caught in the classifieds: 2019 Abarth 595 Competizione
In this weekís ďCaught In The ClassifiedsĒ section, Iím highlighting something extremely cool and interesting. Itís the car which saved Fiat from going bankrupt and the car which shaped the way we look at small cars forever. Iím obviously talking about the Fiat 500, but before you click off this article for fear of being bored to death, let me tell you why you shouldnít: itís an Abarth.
Those of you not familiar with Abarth should know that Abarth is Fiatís performance division. Abarth is to Fiat what AMG is to Mercedes or what ĎMí is to BMW. Theyíre a subsidiary of Fiat specializing in turning ordinary cars into something extremely special, as well as going motor racing.
The car Iíve chosen to highlight today is an Abarth 595 Competizione, the most hardcore variant of the little Fiat. The 595 is available in four different trim levels: Custom, Turismo, Competizione and Kit Elaborazione. The latter is just a power upgrade for the base Custom trim, making the Competizione the flagship model and the one to go for.
Changes over the standard car include Sabelt sports seats, cross-drilled brakes, and the wonderful Record Monza exhaust, which weíll get to in a bit. This example Iíve managed to find has just 18,000 miles on the clock, making it a neigh-on factory-fresh car. It can be yours for just under £9,000.
The regular Fiat 500 is a compact, adorable-looking city car, usually driven by people who love the way it looks but arenít too concerned about performance or power. By comparison, the 595 is a seriously aggressive-looking machine, oozing presence and menace from every angle. If the regular 500 is a little Poodle dog, the 595 is a Jack Russell Terrier. Itís still a relatively small dog, but itís incredibly athletic and powerful.
The first thing you notice about the 595 is the upgraded body. Itís got much more aggressive bumpers and side skirts, not to mention 595-bespoke wheels. The front bumper is a lesson in how to turn a cute-looking front fascia into something more akin to an actual hot hatchback. Thereís an ĎAbarthí side stripe spanning from the front wheel arches to the rear ones, and the back has an actual roof-mounted spoiler which is quite considerable in size. The best part about the 595ís exterior? Itís got four exhaust outlets, two more than most hatchbacks twice its size. That works out to an exhaust outlet for every cylinder it has. How many other cars can say that?
Iím afraid the 595 isnít as special inside as the exterior would have you believe, but itís still a nice place to spend time in. Obviously, most of the money goes towards making it a better driverís car, so Fiat had to make some sacrifices in the cabin. The 595 is essentially a Fiat 500 with different badging and logos, with most of the interior carrying over unchanged.
That being said, all of the controls and things the driver interacts with have been tweaked to make it a lot sportier. The pedals, for instance, are aluminium and are perfectly positioned for heel-and-toe. The seats in this Competizione model are extremely deep, heavily-bolstered buckets. They offer exceptional support, even if they can get a little tiring after a few hours driving nonstop.
The seating position is superb too. You do sit a little too high in comparison to the floor of the car, but the shifter is in the right spot (even though it looks weird on camera), the steering wheel is the right size, and the pedals are, as I pointed out, perfectly placed. The 595 feels eager and ready to go from the moment you first get in it.
Engine and Performance
All 595 variants use the same 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in various states of tune. This 2014 Competizione model pumps out 158 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Thatís not a lot by modern standards, but then again, the 595 doesnít weight a lot. The way the engine delivers the power is incredibly satisfying too. The turbocharger is made by a company called IHI, the same company which makes turbochargers for the latest Ferraris, such as the 488, but also the iconic and legendary F40.
Itís got noticeable lag, especially if youíre not in the right gear and you boot the throttle, but that just adds to the excitement in my opinion. You floor the throttle and wait just a fraction of a second for the boost to kick in, before being catapulted toward the horizon far quicker than a Ďmeaslyí 158 hp should be able to. It couldnít be more different to something like an old-school Renault Clio RS 200. Torque and horsepower arenít delivered in a linear fashion. If you could see a dyno graph of a 595, youíd notice how hard the power comes in, but also how it slowly starts to taper off afterwards as well.
Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual, but you probably guessed that already. The 595 is also offered with a five-speed automated manual (called MTA), but youíd have to be silly to have a 595 with anything other than a manual. Itís so rewarding and fun that I couldnít imagine owning a hot hatch with anything else.
The 595 handles corners brilliantly too. Thanks to stiffer Koni suspension, it doesnít have a lot of body roll and chassis movement is well controlled. It looks like it should understeer but for some reason, it doesnít (provided youíre not driving like a lunatic). The front end has loads of grip, and you can feel what the front tires are doing through the steering wheel because it has a surprising amount of feedback. You can get it to liftoff oversteer if youíre being exuberant with your throttle input and the steering, but you should take it to a track if you plan on doing anything other than Ďspiritedí driving on the public highway.
Model: Abarth 595
The 595ís performance figures appear woeful on paper: 7.4 seconds to 62 mph and a 130 mph top speed. One short drive in the little Abarth though, and youíre properly hooked for life. I donít know what it is, but the 595 has charm and charisma that other small hot hatchbacks seem to be missing. Itís fun and enjoyable, not just for a front-wheel-drive hot hatchback, but for any car, full stop. I wouldnít want to daily drive one because of how small and relatively harsh it is, but as something you can hoon around and have fun in? Take a step closer to signing up by taking a look at the used Abarth 595 cars for sale on DesperateSeller.co.uk.
DesperateSeller.co.uk rating: 8.5 out of 10
View the car here: 2014 Abarth 595 - £8,990