Go for a range-topping Competizione model with the most powerful engine and the Abarth 595 is a seriously speedy hot hatch. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly comfortable one…
The Abarth 595 comes with a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, but you can choose between 145hp, 160hp, 165hp and 180hp versions in standard, Trofeo, Turismo and Competizione guise respectively. The most affordable models with 145hp will sprint from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds which is 0.3 seconds faster than a Suzuki Swift Sport and a whole second faster than the Up GTI.
The 160hp and 165hp versions both cover the same 0-62mph sprint in 7.3 seconds while the most expensive 180hp models take just 6.7 seconds to reach 62mph from rest – that’s only 0.2 seconds shy of the more powerful 200hp Fiesta ST.
Driving the 595 on a motorway is like dragging a toddler around a garden centre – it makes it abundantly clear that it’d rather be somewhere else. A deserted B road, for instance…
The Abarth matches the Ford when it comes to fuel economy – where the Fiesta ST returns a claimed 47.1mpg, Abarth claims all 595 models will return 47mpg. You’ll probably see a figure closer to 40mpg in normal driving conditions, however.
The Abarth 595 comes with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, but you can get the 145hp, 165hp and 180hp versions with a five-speed automatic. It’s not particularly smooth – especially at slow speeds – but does boost claimed fuel economy by around 2mpg across the range.
Around town, the 595’s small size and upright seating position makes it reasonably easy to drive. The steering isn’t too heavy so your arms won’t get tired each time you squeeze it into a tight parking space and the thin pillars between the doors and windscreen make it a doddle to spot traffic approaching at junctions, too.
Unfortunately, the 595’s firm suspension and relatively large alloy wheels (for a small car) highlight every pothole and poorly repaired road surface around town. You’ll hear quite a bit of wind and tyre noise on motorways, too. It’s certainly not as comfortable to drive for long periods as the slightly more mature Suzuki Swift Sport.
Stick to quiet country roads, however, and the 595 makes significantly more sense. The raspy, throaty gurgle from its exhaust makes it feel like you’re travelling much faster than the speedo suggests.
The less powerful Trofeo and Turismo cars still feel pretty nippy, and you don’t notice the Abarth’s body leaning much in tight turns – even without the Competizione’s fancy upgraded suspension. It doesn’t feel quite as nimble as the likes of the Up GTI or the more powerful Fiesta ST, but it’ll happily put a giant grin on your face at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, the Fiat 500 (on which the 595 is based) scored a mediocre three-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2017, and the Abarth doesn’t come with as much safety kit as other small hot hatches. You can’t get automatic emergency braking, for example, and rear parking sensors are a pricey option on entry-level cars.