Abarth 595 (2008) Review
Abarth 595 (2008) At A Glance
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On average it achieves 87% of the official MPG figure
Pocket rockets don’t get more handily-sized than the Abarth 595. It’s been around since 2008 when Fiat first tuned up the retro 500 and it still delivers an engaging driving experience. At the heart of the Abarth is a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine that delivers 145PS to see off 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds. It can also be had in hatch or Convertible forms, giving buyers a choice of how they indulge their dolce vita dreams. Of course, you could always choose the quicker versions with 165- or even 180PS engines that really do deliver that Abarth sting in the tail performance.
Long before Fiat launched its retro-cued 500 and turned up the wick with the Abarth models, fast and fun small cars were a relatively common sight on our roads. Most of the mainstream makers had a compact, lightweight pocket rocket ready to fire some excitement into your daily drive, yet by the time Abarth unveiled its first hotted-up modern 500 in 2008, the market had all but disappeared.
This was good news for Abarth as it suddenly found itself with no natural rivals and a steady stream of willing buyers who wanted something almost ridiculously small and potent. No wonder Abarth’s badge features a scorpion as this car has plenty of sting in its tail. Well, front, actually, as the modern 500 models are front-engined and front-wheel drive rather than punting all of the oily bits at the back as the original 1950s machines did.
No matter, Abarth gave its baseline model an update in 2012 that turned it into the 595 and this was improved again in 2018. So, what we have now is a range that starts with the straight 595 in either hatch or Convertible forms with a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine producing 145PS. That’s a decent amount in a car this small and it sees the 595 from 0-62mph in a sprightly 7.8 seconds.
However, it’s not in Abarth’s nature to leave things at ‘sprightly’, so there are more potent versions of the 595, starting with the Pista. It has the power turned up to 165PS to knock half a second off the 0-62mph dash. There’s also the Turismo version with the same power unit but more luxury kit such as leather upholstery, climate control and rear parking sensors. Quite why you need these in a car as small as the 595 beats us, but there you go.
If you want the full-on Abarth 595 experience, you need the Competizione or Esseesse. They pack a whopping 180PS under the diminutive bonnet and whisk away 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds.
So, you can see the 595 may be small, but it offers a wide range of options to buyers even in the face of increased opposition from the like of the Volkswagen Up GTI and Renault Twingo GT.
There’s no doubt that both of these rivals are more sophisticated cars in most senses, but this is part of the appeal of the Abarth 595. It’s a raw little car that delivers a big hit of fun and driving thrills. You only need to hear the noise it makes when you turn the key to start the engine to know it’s a little bit special and, maybe, just a bit pazzo. After all, why have a pint-sized hot hatch if it’s not going to make you smile every time you get in it?
Of course, there are downsides such as the 595’s handling and ride both feeling quite dated next to newer rivals. The cabin is best described as for two with occasional rear seats, while even the entry-point model is not what you’d call cheap when you can have the far superior Ford Fiesta ST for the same money.