What's the used Abarth 595 hatchback like?
Abarth is to Fiat what Cooper is to Mini. Both of them were tuning companies that took sensible little cars and improved the performance of them, so when Fiat bought out the 500 to compete with the Mini, it was only a matter of time before the Abarth name was resurrected.
Unlike the original from the late 1950s, the current car is based on the Fiat 500 and competes with other hot-hatches such as the Mini Cooper, Vauxhall Corsa VXR and Ford Fiesta ST. The 500 is at a slight disadvantage size wise, but it does offer competitive performance.
Speaking of power, the 500 only has one engine size, a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol. But, it can be had in various states of tune. When it was launched, the 500 came with 133bhp or 158bhp in the Esseese version. Later versions were rebadged 595 and came with three different equipment levels and three power outputs ranging from 143bhp to 178bhp. Then there was the ultra-expensive 695 Biposto that had 187bhp.
The standard car has all the essentials: air con, Bluetooth, seat height adjustment and electrically adjustable door mirrors. The 178bhp 595 Competizione from 2016 onwards adds climate control, Xenon headlights, auto-dipping rear view mirror, parking sensors, uprated suspension, bigger brakes, stickier tyres and a sports exhaust.
To drive, the 500 is quite rapid in town thanks to its powerful engines. However, out in more open country, it isn’t quite so comfortable. Being rather tall and narrow means that stiffer suspension and fat anti-roll bars need to be fitted to control body lean. This has an impact on the ride, which is very firm in the 500, and is made worse by some of the special editions with even stiffer springs fitted. The 500 isn’t particularly great in the bends either, tending to understeer more readily than rivals.
Space is also at a premium with the 500, and some of the ergonomics will infuriate. Like the seat height adjuster that’s impossible to use unless you open the door. To make up for that, the 500 has lots of uprated bits of interior decoration that really help give it a sporty feel. The outside has unique bumpers, alloy wheels and spoilers that make it look the part. Then there’s the exhaust that pops and crackles on the overrun to give the car a character all its own. Indeed, there’s a sense of occasion to the 500 that has a way of charming you.