£15,090 - £33,055 Price range
2 - 4 Seats
45 - 48 MPG
Facelifted in 2016, the Abarth 595 comes with a slightly changed body kit that helps more air get to the engine. The rest of the refresh is even more subtle with mainly small interior and tech updates.
The 595 Abarth also comes in three flavours – the basic 595, a slightly-more-luxurious 595 Turismo and the 595 Competizione which is mostly about driving for fun.
Inside it’s fairly low-rent compared to the Mini, but there’s a lot of character and quirky details – the quirky instrument binnacle and the “stuck-on” boost gauge remain.
The Abarth 595’s punch comes courtesy of a decent 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine that, depending on the 595 model you go for, ranges between 160-180hp. The small engine capacity translates to running costs that are slightly lower than in rivals.
It’s great to drive too, with the same eagerness and willingness to change direction as a small dog. The whole driving experience focuses more on drama than fast lap times, but the 6.7 second 0-62mph acceleration time of the Competizione model is on par with the more powerful and dearer Fiesta ST200.
The three different Abarth models get slightly differing equipment, but all cars come with air-conditioning, tinted windows, 16-inch alloy wheels and an infotainment system with a five inch screen.
The three 595 models get slightly different interiors – most of the dashboard in the standard 595 matches the exterior colour while it’s matte grey in the Turismo and flat black in the Competizione. The seats are also different – regular cloth upholstery in the 595 and natural leather in the Turismo. The Competizione gets serious with bucket seats supplied by Sabelt, who used to supply the Ferrari F1 team.
The standard Uconnect system with a five-inch touchscreen is not the latest in terms of technology because it lacks smartphone screen mirroring and sat-nav is a £350 extra. However, we’d spend £300 more and get the upgraded infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen since it comes with sat-nav, and will get Apple CarPlay and Android Audio soon, according to Abarth.
Abarth 595 passenger space
There is decent room up front and some space in the rear seats, but if you opt for the Competizione model then the front seats eat into rear-seat legroom so much that the back bench is only really useful for storing things, not people.
The driving position is more upright than you’d expect, but the gear shifter is positioned perfectly and falls to hand nicely. The only big problem is that the steering wheel only adjusts in rake and not reach.
Abarth 595 boot space
The regular boot capacity of 185 litres isn’t exactly cavernous, but should be enough for a quick, and we mean quick, dash to the shops. Drop the rear seats and the resulting 550-litre space is quite practical for the overall size of the car.
Abarth says a lot of the 695 Biposto supermini supercar has trickled down to the 595 and one of the most exciting filtered-down components is the mechanical locking differential in the Competizione model. It’s supposed to improve cornering speed, but reviewers are sceptical and say the difference is barely felt – the 595 quickly defaults to understeer if you overstep the limits.
The direct steering combines with the stiff chassis to provide a truly full-on driving experience. Changes of direction are lightning quick and the whole car feels more purposeful than just a Fiat 500 with an Abarth badge. If it’s the thrill of driving you’re after, the 595 will return bags of it on just about any journey.
There is now a sport button in the Competizone model that stiffens the Koni dampers and it does make things more stiff and eager, but the regular car is already quite savage, especially in terms of ride quality – a Mini Cooper will be just as savage in corners, but more forgiving on your spine when you’re not driving like a maniac.
The 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine powering the 595 is a bit behind the competition in terms of outright size, but matches them in excitement with its pops and bangs, thanks to the sports exhaust fitted as standard to the Competizione model. Its peaky power delivery is far from the steady stream of acceleration offered by most rivals, but makes the 595 all the more characterful for it. We’d also stick to the slick five-speed manual gearbox, because the optional sequential one doesn’t really live up to the price increase of about £2,000.
The entry-level 595 comes with 160hp, 25hp up from the 500 Abarth, and in such a small car that power is more than enough. However, the Turismo and Competizione models get 5 and 20hp more respectively. Abarth says all engines should achieve fuel economy of 47.1mpg and emit 139g/km of CO2 for a £130 annual road tax.
As well as having a daft name the 695 Tributo Ferrari has a daft price tag. The standard Abarth is tweaked and massaged until it produces 178bhp and 184lb ft, to give it the performance to match the toughened stance and looks.
The performance is still hot rather than scorching, with 62mph being reached in under 7 seconds. The top speed is 140mph, although the short wheelbase means that we doubt few owners will ever see that figure on their speedometer. The engine sounds “encouragingly naughty” although some feel that Fiat could do better than fit a five speed manual gearbox as most of its rivals have at least six gears.
The fuel consumption is supposed to be 43.5mpg, but few will see that either, especially if they take full advantage of the improved performance.
The tiny 1.4-litre 16 valve turbo-charged petrol engine develops a respectable 135bhp and 133lb ft of torque – and even more is available by pressing the ‘Sport' button, which nudges the torque up a little bit to 152lb ft. This engine doesn’t give “blistering” performance but is “an exceptional joy to thrash.”
You’ll hit 62mph in 7.9 seconds and the top speed of 127mph can be reached without too much of a struggle. The engine revs quite freely, which makes it a fun car to drive – and fun, rather than outright performance is the key to understanding the standard Abarth.
Fuel consumption won’t be as good as you might expect from such a small engine, but the official figure is 42.8mpg, so most owners can expect to get around 35mpg in normal use. CO2 emissions are 155g/km.
The Esseesse is a rorty, rip-roaring car to drive that sacrifices some refinement for performance. The power of 157bhp and 170lb ft of torque are enough to propel the tiny speedster to 62mph in 7.4 seconds and onto a top speed of 131mph, usefully quicker than the standard Abarth if thrashed.
Drilled brake discs, even stiffer springs, and 17” alloy wheels as standard beef up the chassis, even if the lower-profile tyres do little for the car’s ride. The turn-in is “instant” and body roll “is almost non-existent”.
The fuel consumption is the same as the standard Abarth’s. The official consumption figure is 42.8mpg, although most owners will struggle to get this, as they’ll be flexing the engine too much; around 35mpg is a more realistic figure.
Although the Abarth version hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, the standard 500 has and it has to be said that it scores fairly well.
While the scores for child and pedestrian safety aren’t stellar, it does score five stars for adult safety and the Abarth comes with an impressive seven airbags. The upgraded brakes are sure to cut down on stopping distances, thus reducing the risk of an accident in the first place.
The three types of 595 you can have represent iconic Italian car classes – the regular 595 is a fantastic building point to upgrade upon, while the remaining three versions represent iconic Italian car types – grand tourer, sports car and supercar.
The entry-level 595 gets air-con, the basic five-inch infotainment screen and 16-inch alloy wheels, as well as tinted windows.
Abarth 595 Turismo
Thinks of this as a very, very scaled-down Ferrari FF – there are tan leather seats, matte grey interior trim inserts, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and rear parking sensors. If you go for the optional sequential gearbox, the shift buttons on the centre console are not too different to those in a Ferrari. If you squint.
Abarth 595 Competizione
This is the sports car of the range and comes with typical sports car equipment such as a performance exhaust system, Koni suspension and big Brembo brakes. Those are joined by a smattering of Alcantara suede and carbon fibre inside and Sabelt bucket seats.
Abarth 695 Biposto
Advertised as the smallest supercar you can buy, the Biposto has two race-car bucket seats, no rear seats, no door trims, no infotainment and a rally-car-style gearbox – all essential in a city runabout, naturally. There are more sensible, more spacious, more practical, quieter and easier to drive superminis, but there isn’t another that fits so much aggression in such a small package.
The 595 Abarth won’t be to everybody’s taste, and it’s a long way from being a practical car in just about any sense. However, if you’re in the market for a miniature sports car with a truly lovable personality and bags of character, the 595 Abarth is definitely worth a test drive.