Abarth 595 Review
Fun-loving Abarth 595 is fast and packed full of charm, but stiff ride and cramped cabin make it hard work.
Strengths & weaknesses
- Looks great
- Eager performance
- Small dimensions and strong agility
- Interior is cramped
- Bouncy and stiff ride can be uncomfortable
- Competizione and Esseesse models aren’t cheap
Abarth 595 prices from £8,389 Finance from £143.81 per month
Above all else, the Abarth 595 is aimed at drivers who are after some affordable and unadulterated driving fun. It's based on the hugely popular Fiat 500, but there are some substantial changes that turn the Abarth into something totally different.
There's a bigger, more powerful engine, which shouts rather loudly through a sports exhaust. The suspension is much stiffer, there are sporty front seats and the styling is adjusted with a bold body kit to set it apart as well. Aside from some interior details which remain unchaged from the standard 500, the Abarth is for all intents and purposes an entirely different car.
Despite those dinky dimensions, the Abarth 595 punches above its weight when it comes to rivals. Entry-level models are priced against bigger and more practical machines such as the Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Fiesta ST-Line which also offer similar performance, while the more powerful and expensive models at the top end of the range will cost around the same as a Ford Fiesta ST or Mini Cooper S. It's safe to say that if you're looking for a car you can use for family days out or a weekly shop, any of these alternatives will prove more suitable. If, however, you want something that's going to offer uncompromising enjoyment then the Abarth comes into its own.
It's hard not to smile once you get behind the wheel. A car that small producing such a loud exhaust note is quite ridiculous, but it simply serves to add to the character. If you're not smiling while you're driving it, the Abarth isn't for you. The additions of a chunky sports steering wheel and a turbo guage mounted directly above it add extra layers of sporting excitement.
The Abarth is certainly not without its flaws, though. The driving position is too upright, you feel like your sat on top of the car rather than in it, while that stiffened suspension sends every small imperfection in the road straight through your seat. It's a novelty for a while, but it wears off rather quickly.
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 Volkswagen Up GTI provides 250-litres. Storage in the interior is also limited, with small door bins and glovebox.
A car of this size is never going to be the safest either. 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.
It's not the perfect car, and it certainly isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for a car that you can play with on a weekend, then the Abarth is easily the most enjoyable car to drive for the money.
|£210 to £530 in first year, £145 thereafter
Best Abarth 595 for...
Best for Economy – Abarth 595 1.4 T-Jet 145hp
It's the same 1.4-litre engine you get throughout the 595 range but this one has been detuned to provide less power resulting in better fuel economy. A combined figure of 42.8mpg is not world changing, but it does enough to compete with other performance cars within this price range.
Best for Performance – Abarth 595 Essesse 1.4 T-Jet 180hp
The top of the range Essesse models offer the most power and the most performance enhancing equipment. A sprint from 0-62mph takes 6.7 seconds and a mechanical limited-slip differential makes power delivery even sharper. If you're after thrills, this car will give you thrills.
One to Avoid – Abarth 595 1.4 T-Jet 145hp
The base level 595 may be the most economical of the range, but that's not really what this car's about. It's lack of power will remove much of the enjoyment factor that comes with driving on of these cars and if you're not having fun with it, you can't really do anything else.
- 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
- Sep 2019 Another new model, the Pista, is launched with a bespoke colour scheme and standard racing specification tweaks
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.
38.2 - 38.7mpg
7.3 - 7.4sec
36.2 - 36.7mpg
6.7 - 6.9sec
36.2 - 36.7mpg
6.7 - 6.9sec
Abarth 595 Trims
595, Pista, 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.
Next up is the newest addition to the 595 range. Pista models are branded as 'racing spec' versions of the standard model, with some performance enhancing tweaks accompanied by some aesthetic ones. There's a bespoke grey and green colour scheme with red brake callipers, along with sports suspension at the back, a sports exhaust and a new refined turbocharger. Inside, you a larger seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, DAB radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You also get a leather steering wheel and air-conditioning.
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 also gets the larger seven-inch screen with all its additions.
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’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.