2018 Abarth 595 Competizione Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Abarth 595 Competizione Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The new Abarth 595 has been tweaked inside and out and, in Competizione trim delivers old-school hot hatch thrills.
2018 Abarth 595 Competizione
Price From $31,990+ORC Warranty Three years, 150,000km Service Interval 12 months/15,000km Safety Not rated (score for Fiat 500 listed in safety section) Engine 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power 132kW at 5500rpm Torque 250Nm at 330rpm Transmission five-speed manual (as tested) Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 3667mm (L); 1627mm (W); 1485mm (H); 2300mm (WB) Spare Fix and Go Inflation kit Weight 1045kg Fuel Tank 35L Thirst 5.8-6.0L/100km (claimed combined depending on transmission)
THE ABARTH 595 ORIGINALLY lobbed in 2008 following the 2007 re-birth of the Fiat 500 on which it’s based. Abarth had made a name and fortune for itself providing home DIY exhaust and tuning kits for Fiats for more than 10 years before the original 595 was revealed at the Turin Motor Show in 1963. The company was eventually purchased by Fiat in 1971.
What is the Abarth 595?
Put simply, it’s the hot-shoe version of the Fiat 500. This refreshed Abarth 595 follows on the from the recent refresh of the Fiat 500 and while the Abarth variant hasn’t always received a lot of love, the tweaks in this update should see more people paying attention to it.
The refresh offers a hatch and convertible version of the Abarth 595 and top-spec 595 Competizione; there’s one engine for all variants in two states of tune, either 107kW or 132kW. Pricing is from $26,990+ORC for the Abarth 595 and from $31,990+ORC for the 595 Competizione – we spent most of our time in this car and will keep our review to the drive experience of this beastie.
Key changes over the old model, include body styling tweaks to improve aerodynamics and engine cooling, new steering wheel, new headlights, Koni shocks front and rear, Brembo brakes and a bi-modal exhaust for that old-school pop and crackle on overrun. It also offers alcantara-clad seats with a carbon-fibre shell.
What’s the interior like?
Well, it’s as mental as you might expect based on the souped-up city car exterior… think Mighty Mouse on wheels; for the youngsters reading this, Google Mighty Mouse. Climb inside and the first thing you’ll notice/feel is the seat; it hugs you nice and snugly with large seat and side bolstering (a carbon-fibre back, so don’t expect a lot of adjustment) and grippy Alcantara to keep you firmly in place when flinging it down a road. But, be warned, climbing out can be quite a dangerous thing, the bolstering on the seat base is considerable… if you catch my drift.
But, as grippy as the seat is it’s also very hard, thanks to the carbon-fibre shell and lack of padding. This means any stint longer than five minutes behind the wheel will leave you with a back ache; after that time, your back will be so numb you just won’t care.
Adjusting the driver’s seat is best done stationary and with the door open, and that’s because the tightness of the cabin means the seat back adjustment is right up hard against the door and virtually impossible to reach.
And without a foot rest, as such, you find your foot slipping into the hole at the back of the centre console up against the firewall; I had to consciously keep my foot upright to avoid getting it caught on its way to the clutch… and the size of your shoes will be important to avoid standing on the close-together brake and throttle at the same time.
Apologies, but I didn’t sit in the back at the local launch last week but, I can tell you that from experience I would have struggled. And, so big are the front seats in the Abarth 595 Competizione that there’s even less room in the back seat than lesser models with their normal seats.
To be fair, though, younger children will fit in the back, although a booster seat might make the back too cramped even for kids. But, hey, the Abarth 595 Competizione isn’t about passengers, it’s about the driver.
The design of the dashboard is compact but appealing to the eye with just the tweaked 5.0-inch infotainment unit feeling a little ho-hum in this day and age. Sure, it’s got a reasonable amount of functionality, but offering Apple CarPlay or Android Auto would have been a smart move. Ahead of the driver is a 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster.
The rest of the controls are clear and easy to use with everything falling very easily to hand, indeed, the driver can even open the passenger door without really having to stretch. Like the back seat, the boot is small but there’s enough room for a couple of soft overnight bags or the weekly shop, there’s no spare, just a fix and go inflation kit.
What’s it like to drive?
The Abarth 595 Competizione requires a key start which is fast becoming an oddity. Strike the engine and the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol barks into life before settling into an angry-dog growl of an idle. With 132kW and 250Nm of torque at 3000rpm and being just about pocket-size means you only ever need a slight squeeze of the throttle to keep the 595 Competizione moving tensely along.
We managed to nab a car with a five-speed manual as opposed to the utterly confusing manu-matic and while the clutch, transmission and engine all seem well matched, in terms of take-up, action and response, I couldn’t help but think a sixth-gear wouldn’t have hurt when loping along at speeds above 80km/h, indeed I was forever reaching out and dipping the clutch for a change to sixth gear before stopping myself from trying to slot reverse at 100km/h. Moving on.
Give the 595 Competizione some room to move and it comes to life, pulling with an eagerness and aggression that you might not initially, despite its looks, expect. Indeed, it’ll hit 100km/h in 6.7 seconds which is quick indeed, it’s not so long ago that a performance sedan that could hit the legal limit in that time was considered properly quick. So, there’s nothing to worry about as far as straightline pace is concerned.
Now, I should admit that I never actually drove the first-generation 595 but I’ve read plenty about it, mainly that its adjustability in corners was a shortcoming. Well, the roads used for the local launch were carefully chosen to allow the 595 to try and kills its past; they were tight, twisting (wet in patches) and delicious, and I felt the 595 Competizione worked well on them. That said, it did, at times, feel more like blunt instrument than scalpel; something you notice when back-to-backing it with the Abarth 124… yes, this is a different kind of car, but I’m talking about chassis tune, grip and mid-corner adjustability, but I digress.
The 595 Competizione does fall easily into understeer and early too if you’re not paying attention in a tightening corner but, overall there’s bags of grip, the brakes are stupid strong and the steering is meaty and direct and the transmission shift and clutch action is a delight.
The Koni dampers do a fantastic job of all but eliminating body roll into corners and keep the thing surprisingly flat during flip-flop direction changes. But it does ride very firmly, to the point where even slight bumps can have you bouncing around inside the cabin, with larger hits causing you to wince as your back slams into the thinly padded seat back… but, hey, as Freddie Mercury once said, “pain is so close to pleasure” and the trade-off for the firm ride is the directional stability and stance. It’s worth it.
Probably the key issue, is the height of the seat, the location of the gear shifter and steering wheel. Everything feels very upright and I can’t help but wonder if mounting the driver’s seat lower and moving the transmission shifter down a bit wouldn’t transform this into a proper little driver-oriented hot hatch. That’s not to say that it isn’t already, just that some ergonomic tweaks might elevate it even higher.
What about safety features?
The Fiat 500 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating dating back to 2008, although it only managed three-stars when the new model was tested by EuroNCAP in 2017. We’d imagine the Abarth 595 would share the Fiat 500’s crash safety rating.
Beyond this, it gets seven airbags, stability control, central locking, tyre pressure monitoring, ISOFIX mounts for the outboard seats in the back, and rear parking sensors. There’s no spare, only a fix and go inflation kit. On the whole, the safety features are pretty poor for the price; there are cheaper cars on the market that offer a lot more in the way of active safety, the 595 offers none.
So, what do we think about it?
Okay, it doesn’t get the best safety features and as good as the tweaked suspension have made it, it’s still not the sharpest tool in the shed. But it’s still very flippin’ sharp and its crazy interior and exterior and intoxicating exhaust note are all enough to get this thing onto the shopping lists of those looking for something fun.