The Abarth 595 is a bit like a granny on roller skates. Let us explain. It’s a hot version of the Fiat 500 and was first launched in 2008 as the Abarth 500. Over the years, the Abarth has had many a nip and tuck to try and keep it fresh - including a name change to 595 - but it’s still technically the same car underneath. In car terms, that’s old.
But while most manufacturers have shied away from making high-performance shopping trollies, the Abarth’s ability to provide pint-size thrills means it still manages to stand out from the crowd, despite its ancient underpinnings.
While city cars may be ten a penny, finding a quick one is trickier. It’s only in the last couple of years that cars like the Volkswagen Up GTI, Renault Twingo GT and Smart Brabus have joined the Abarth 595 in the pocket-rocket city car class. The 595 previously had the market largely to itself, and it soundly outguns all of those rivals in a straight line even now.
The recipe for turning a regular Fiat 500 into an Abarth 595 is a simple one: put a rorty 1.4-litre turbocharged engine up front, lower and stiffen the suspension, garnish the exterior with a tough-looking bodykit and sweeten the dish with racy sports seats.
But do these changes make the 595 tasty enough to beat the competition? Over the next few pages, we’ll let you know. And whichever sporty city car you decide on, visit our New Car Buying page for the best discounts around.