Abarth 595 (2012-present)

Fun-loving Abarth 595 is fast and packed full of charm, but stiff ride and cramped cabin make it hard work day to day

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Eager performance
Small dimensions and strong agility
Looks great

Weaknesses 

Bouncy and stiff ride can be uncomfortable
Competizione and Esseesse models aren’t cheap
Interior is cramped
Abarth 595 prices from £8,199  Finance from £125 per month

The Abarth 595 has all the ingredients to be a car that’s big on fun. Based on the hugely popular Fiat 500 city car it gets more power and aggressive looks courtesy of the Italian brand’s in house tuner, Abarth. There have been numerous special editions and it started out life as the Abarth 500, but whatever version you choose you’re guaranteed a wild ride.

Despite its dinky dimensions the Abarth 595 punches above its weight when it comes to rivals. Entry-level models have a price and power outputs that pitch them head-to-head with bigger and more practical machines such as the Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Fiesta ST-Line, while the more muscular flagship models are aimed at hugely capable contenders like the Ford Fiesta ST and MINI Cooper S.

In reality the Abarth can’t hold a candle to any of these models when it comes to a modern driving experience and practicality, but the Abarth’s character and charm mean many are willing to overlook its many flaws.

A huge part of the Abarth 595’s appeal lies in its looks, which tread a fine line between city car cute and muscular performance car. A prominent body kit, wide wheels and numerous (and occasionally garish) decals mean that the Abarth always stands out from the crowd. Still, with so many personalisation options it’s possible to create a 595 to suit your tastes.

Inside, the Abarth gets all the sporty additions you’d expect. There are high-backed bucket seats for the driver and passenger, a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, aluminium finished pedals and natty turbo boost gauge tacked onto the side of the instrument binnacle. It’s all rather fun and adds to the sense of anticipation. The 595C versions inject a little extra theatre with their folding, full length opening fabric roof - although this is more a large sunroof than a true convertible.

Less impressive is the driving position, which is a little bit too upright and suffers from pedals that are slightly offset to the left. Quality isn’t the best either, certainly when compared to the MINI. The plastics are a particular weaknesses, with a hard and scratchy texture that’s more in keeping with a cheap and cheerful city car than an upmarket hot hatch.

It’s not particularly practical either. The driver and passenger do okay for head and legroom, but the rear seats are only really suitable for children on longer journeys. The boot is tiny too, with a capacity of 185-litres - the much cheaper, and externally not much bigger VW up! GTI provides 250-litres. Storage in the interior is also limited, with small door bins and glovebox.

Still, the dashboard looks good with its body colour dashboard inserts and TFT instrument cluster. The touchscreen entertainment system isn’t one of the easiest to navigate, particularly the entry-level five-inch version (the seven-inch system is better bet), but it does offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

A further demerit for the Abarth 595 is safety. Although the Abarth itself has never been tested by EuroNCAP, it’s mechanically and structurally identical to the Fiat 500, which was awarded a disappointing three stars. You do get five airbags and electronic stability control, but that’s about it for peace of mind.

Get moving in the Abarth 595 and you’ll quickly forget about all the negatives - mainly because you’ll be coming to terms with the stiff and bouncy ride. On smooth surfaces the small and nimble 595 darts through corners with loads of grip and barely any body roll, but throw a few bumps and potholes into the mix (any UK road basically) and the Abarth gets a bit hyperactive as it hops along like a four-wheeled pogo stick. Yet while this behaviour is wearing, especially on a long journey, it adds to the infectious, terrier-like personality of the Abarth.

There’s not much feedback through the steering, but it’s accurate enough - although the extra weight added in Sport mode feels artificial. You’ll put up with it, however, in return for the much more responsive throttle pedal and, on the Competizione, the burbling and rasping exhaust.

It’s not the easiest car to get on with on a day to day basis, but its fun-loving personality means that on the right road the Abarth 595 will leave you grinning from ear to ear.

     

Last Updated 

Thursday, June 27, 2019 - 15:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
3 years
Boot size: 
185-litres
Width: 
1627mm
Length: 
3660mm
Height: 
1485mm
Tax: 
£210 to £530 in first year, £145 thereafter

Abarth 595 History 

Aug 2012 Abarth 595 Turismo and Competizione revealed, both with 158hp engines. Both are available in hatchback or convertible guises
Sep 2013 595 50th Anniversary launched with upgraded 178bhp engine and revised suspension and brakes, plus numerous cosmetic tweaks
May 2015 Competizione is facelifted and power boosted to 178hp
Sep 2015 Special edition 138hp 595 Trofeo launched with extra kit and special colours. Just 250 examples come to the UK
Oct 2015 The 595 Yamaha Factory Racing Edition gets 158bhp, suspension upgrades, extra equipment and visual changes
May 2016 Revised 595 range announced, with revised interior and exterior, plus the arrival of new 143hp entry-level model. Turismo and Competizione get 163hp and 178hp respectively
Mar 2017 New version of the Trofeo revealed with 158hp, Record Monza exhaust and special choice of colours
Sep 2018 Further refinements to the range, with more equipment and option of switchable Monza Sports exhaust. Trofeo dropped from the line-up
May 2019 New Esseesse celebrates 70 years of Abarth. Based on Competitzione it gets bespoke looks and interior, plus a limited slip differential

Abarth 595 Engines 

Petrol: 1.4 T-Jet

Despite the many different models and power outputs all versions of the Abarth 595 are essentially powered by the same turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. However, thanks to tweaks to the turbocharger, the engine’s electronic brain and exhaust system, each version gives different performance. In simple terms: the more you pay, the faster you go.

Entry point to the Abarth range is the 595, which gets a 143hp version of this engine. With little more than 1000kg to haul around it’s a zesty performer, with the 0-62mph sprint dealt with in a brisk 7.8 seconds, the twin exit exhausts rasping in the traditional Italian way. However, like all the 595 models here it’s worth mentioning that you only get the full performance potential with the Sport mode engaged, which in the case of the 595 unleashes the full 206Nm of torque. Leave the car in Normal and this figure is reduced, while the throttle pedal response goes from eager to mushy.

Step up to the 595 Turismo and you get an extra 20hp courtesy of a new Garrett turbocharger in place of the IHI unit, plus a high performance air filter. You also get a healthier 230Nm of torque, although once again this is only available in Sport. The increase in performance doesn’t look massive on paper, with the 0-62mph time dipping half a tenth to 7.3 seconds, but the extra muscle from the increased torque really makes itself felt, particularly when charging up steeper hills or overtaking slower vehicles.

Yet for real hot hatchback performance you need to splash out on the Competizione, which delivers 178hp and 250Nmm of torque. Crucially, it gets the switchable quad exit Monza Record exhaust that delivers the racy soundtrack to go with its increased performance. The official claimed 0-62mph time of as little as 6.7 seconds is quick enough, but it feels even faster with the exhaust in its noisiest setting, burping, belching, popping and banging away behind you. It’s all a bit childish, but huge fun nonetheless.

At the top of the range, the Esseesse gets the same engine as the Competizione and identical performance figures, even with its special limited slip differential that should boost traction off the line. Curiously, despite its more exotic and expensive Akrapovic carbon fibre tipped exhaust, the Esseesse actually sounds more muted than the cheaper version.

All Abarth 595 models come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard. The lever is handily placed high on the transmission tunnel, but the shift action feels a little woolly, while the clutch pedal has a mushy action. Still, it’s lots, lots better than the optional ‘robotized sequential’ option. Essentially an automated version of the manual it delivers slow and jerky shifts in auto mode and is not much better when you change gears yourself with the steering-wheel mounted gearshift paddles - although you can at least smooth things out with a well-timed lift of the throttle between changes.

 

Fuel

Fuel economy

Power

Acceleration (0-62mph)

Top speed

595

Petrol

39.2mpg

143hp

7.8sec

130mph

595 Turismo

Petrol

38.2 - 38.7mpg

163hp

7.3 - 7.4sec

135mph

595 Competitzione

Petrol

36.2 - 36.7mpg

178hp

6.7 - 6.9sec

140mph

595 Esseesse

Petrol

36.2 - 36.7mpg

178hp

6.7 - 6.9sec

140mph

Abarth 595 Trims 

595, Turismo, Competizione, Esseesse

Regardless of trim level the Abarth 595 gives you all the kit you’re likely to need. And what options there are tend to be geared towards cosmetic personalisation.

Kicking off the range is the 595, which gets air-conditioning, a TFT instrument cluster and high-backed sports seats trimmed in hard-wearing fabric. It also gets the Uconnect entertainment system, although in this case it’s controlled by a rather small five-inch touchscreen. Parking sensors are standard on the 595C convertible version (no surprise given the appalling rear visibility), which also gets a powered opening roof.

The Turismo adds leather trimmed seats, aluminium pedals and climate control to this little lot, while on the outside is a bespoke alloy wheel design and privacy glass for the rear windows. Perhaps more temptingly it gets the larger seven-inch Uconnect entertainment that also includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

On the Competizione the major changes are to be found inside, where you get figure-hugging Sabelt sports seats and a steering wheel that’s trimmed in leather and Alcantara. On the outside are dark-finished 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels that cover larger brakes that provide stronger stopping power.

Spotting an Esseesse is easy thanks to its white alloys wheels and special body graphics, while inside carbon fibre covers the backs of the front seats, the pedals and the dashboard. The instrument binnacle benefits from an Alcantara finish, while red stitching is used on the seats and steering wheel.

Options on the 595 are largely limited to cosmetic upgrades, such as various carbon fibre trim inserts and different colour finishes for the brake calipers and seat belts, plus a wide range of decals. There’s also an electric glass sunroof, which lets in extra light but robs the already cramped interior of legroom. Of all the options to select, then the xenon headlamp upgrade is well worth the outlay as it vastly improves the nighttime vision of the otherwise poor standard set-up.

Abarth 595 Reliability and warranty 

Behind the Abarth badge is a Fiat 500, meaning the 595 is covered by the same three year and 60,000 miles warranty, which is pretty much par for the course.

Abarth itself didn’t feature in the 2019 Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey, but the Fiat 500 on which it’s based finished a creditable 58th out of 100 cars - not a bad result for a design that’s over a decade old and is based on a car (the Fiat Panda) that’s over fifteen years old.

Used Abarth 595 

The Abarth brand isn’t widely known in the UK, but it does have a loyal following, while the 595 has been around long enough for a fair few used examples to be available.

There are currently 57 Abarth 595s available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £8,199 to £25,025 for nearly-new models.

Monthly finance payments start from £125 per month.

There’s plenty of choice out there, so you can afford to be picky and find the Abarth that suits you - and with so many customisation options that could take longer than you think. In terms of models it’s pretty evenly split, with maybe marginally more examples of the mid-range Turismo models available.

Apart from minor tweaks and subtle power upgrades there’s not much to choose between the car’s mechanically, but if can stretch to the post 2017 cars then we’d recommend doing so as they benefit from the upgraded interior with the touchscreen Uconnect entertainment.

As for a model to choose, the Turismo represents a decent balance between performance and everyday usability. But if you are going to buy a frenetic, bouncing Abarth 595, then you might as well go the whole hog and plump for the slightly hyperactive Competizione.

Also consider the 595C convertible versions. The rear visibility is awful, but the large extended sunroof adds an extra layer of fun and excitement when the sun is shining.