Essentially a Fiat 500 that’s pumped a lot of iron and guzzled a lot of protein shakes, the Abarth 595 is a muscular supermini with impressive performance credentials. Available in three different specs, each with a greater power output, the Abarth 595 is a small car with a serious sting in its tail.
Considering the original Fiat 500’s friendly, dinky shape, it’s amazing how the Abarth 595’s muscular bodykit and fat alloy wheels have totally changed the nature of this diminutive city runabout.
The 595’s pumped-up side skirts and bumpers, twin exhausts and rear spoiler lend this tiny car some serious attitude.
And it’s not all for show either. The gaping air intake underneath the front bumper is there to cool the engine’s turbocharger, while the slashes on the front and rear bumpers send cooling air to the brakes. The Abarth 595 is a proper sports car, with the looks to prove it.
The Abarth 595 is a proper sports car, with the looks to prove it.
What’s it like to drive?
The Abarth 595 is unlikely to disappoint keen drivers. With pin-sharp steering, grippy tyres and planted, confidence-inspiring roadholding, the 595 is something of a hoot to drive on twisty country roads.
The compact size and lack of weight also help to hustle the Abarth along. Its raspy engine adds to the sporty driving experience. The 595 has character in spades.
While the Abarth 595 is most at home on fast B-roads, it’s great in town too, where the small dimensions make it perfect for negotiating narrow city streets and tight parking spaces. There’s enough oomph for motorway journeys as well. Just be prepared for a fairly firm, noisy ride. If you’re after a long-distance tourer, we suggest you look elsewhere.
The 595 is something of a hoot to drive on twisty country roads.
The Abarth’s driving position is just a little too high for some. This elevated seat is great for visibility, and it’s supportive and comfortable once adjusted.
The single instrument binnacle is clear and easy to read, while a dash-mounted turbo boost gauge and a gear shift light put you in the mood for spirited driving.
The base model has air conditioning, electric front windows and a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Recently facelifted models come with Fiat’s 7-inch Uconnect infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, as well as Abarth Telemetry to track your lap times around pre-loaded racing circuits.
The looks are truly plush, with a general cabin layout reminiscent of the 500 - with added sporty bucket seats and splashes of interior colour. Check out the seat colour specifications before you buy a used Abarth 595, since the red and white options can give the interior a very different look and feel.
The 595’s interior is based on the standard Fiat 500, so don’t expect premium plastics and materials. It’s generally well put together though, with a host of sporty Abarth flourishes including figure-hugging bucket seats, alloy pedals and a leather-trimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel.
There’s no getting around the fact that practicality isn’t the 595’s strong suit. There’s plenty of leg and head room up front. Head to the rear seats and you’ll find space lacking. It’ll be a bit of a squeeze for a couple of reasonably sized adults to travel in comfort on anything but shorter journeys.
Interior storage space is a little lacklustre, with just a small glovebox and narrow door bins to put stuff in, although there are a couple of decent-sized cupholders below the dash-mounted gear lever.
The boot is big enough for the weekly shop, although with the rear seats folded down there’s plenty of additional space to pack for a long weekend away.
Running costs and reliability
The Abarth 595 is available in a variety of trim specs, with a trio of engine outputs coming from the same turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine.
Economy figures are good, if not class-leading. The entry-level model returns 48.7mpg, the higher spec Turismo delivers 38.2mpg and the more performance-focused Competizione and Esseesse versions both get 36.7mpg. CO2 emissions figures for all versions are on a par with the competition.
What cinch loves
We love the Abarth 595’s ultra-compact, pocket rocket looks. And its performance and handling aren’t too shabby either. The 595 also has 7 airbags, anti-whiplash headrests and electronic stability control as standard on all models – although the carbon-backed seats fitted to the top-of-the-range Esseesse cars mean you’ll have to do without the front side airbags.
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The Abarth 595’s raw performance, great handling and oodles of character give it a unique place in the performance supermini market. The competition may be limited in this class, but the 595’s rivals have a proper job on their hands if they want to beat this pocket-size bandit. For real performance motoring on a budget, we can’t think of a stronger contender.
This review was