Abarth 595 1.4 T-Jet Competizione
There are many variants of the Abarth 500/595/695. This one, the 595 Competizione is a ‘proper’ Abarth. By that we mean aggressive, loud and a little bit bonkers. 180PS in a car this size is more than enough to give serious hot hatch performance. But the downside of a car this size is, well, size. Interior space is limited. Hot hatchbacks are supposed to be practical, and the lack of interior space in the 595 is, potentially, a deal breaker.
Despite the rather small canvas, Abarth have managed to pack a lot of styling flourish on the outside. To the front you’ll find a sports bumper with plenty of black accents.
Sat in the middle is the very familiar yellow and red scorpion badge. Look closely at the lower grille and you’ll see the word “Abarth” hiding in it.
Many of the curves featured on the Fiat 500 have been replaced with more aggressive, bulging lines. However, you’re never going to get away from someone calling it a Fiat 500…even though it’s not!
To the sides you’ll be instantly drawn to the 17 inch diamond cut alloys. That may not sound the biggest by today’s stands but on a car the size of shoe, they certainly stand out.
What helps even more is yellow Brembo brake callipers, which offset nicely against the blue body. Those yellow calipers will cost you £200 as an optional extra, but they look great.
You also get sporty side skirts along with an optional black ‘Abarth’ decal. Above that you’ll find yet another scorpion, and a 595 badge, to remind others that it’s not a Fiat 500.
Round to the rear and it gets even more interesting. The usual large rear spoiler and distinct racing bumpers are applied. Abarth badging reminds you, again, it’s not a Fiat.
To the bottom is a black contrasting diffuser with quad exhaust pipes. The key thing here is not only are all 4 exhaust pipes real, but trust me, they make one hell of a racket.
Overall, I rather like the exterior of the Abarth 595. Yes you’re never going to get entirely away from the Fiat 500 image, but Abarth has done a superb job transforming it into an image worthy of a hot hatch.
Open those rather small doors and it’s immediately obvious that you’re not inside a standard Fiat 500. It’s blatantly obvious the 595 Competizione is an Abarth. Yes, the general interior layout is similar to the Fiat 500, but everything is given an Abarth flourish.
Step inside and you’re immediately drawn to the flat bottom steering wheel. It features alcantara and carbon inserts to reinforce the performance credentials.
Upfront you’ll find a specific 7 inch digital instrument display just for the 595, with further touches of alcantara on the instrument binnacle.
Keeping with the sporty theme, you’ll find alloy racing pedals and a perfectly round chunky alloy gearknob. The seats are best described as ‘slimline’ buckets and it’s probably best not to eat a full Sunday dinner before jumping into them.
The buckets are manufactured by Sabelt, with Abarth written across the backrest. They look great and really give the car a rally feel. They even feature a nice red pull bar to release the seat forward when getting in the back. It’s reminiscent of something out of a purpose-built rally car.
All these features set the tone well, however that’s where it all stops. Look further and you’ll still notice a lot of the old Fiat 500 scratchy hard plastics and styling. I mean, someone even left the 500 logo right across the dashboard!
When you consider the price of the 595 Competizione – more on that later – it’s frustrating to see poor-quality plastics. But at the same time you can see where the money has been spent. Sabelt seats aren’t cheap!
The Abarth 595 Competizione comes with a 1.4-litre T-Jet turbocharged petrol engine. This is, in essence, the same unit that featured in the Fiat Tipo we tested earlier in the year.
However, for the 595 this engine produces a much meatier 180PS. Now you might be thinking, that’s not much power compared to most hot hatches today, and you’d be right.
But in a car that weighs the same as a shopping trolley, 180PS results in some pretty tantalising performance capabilities. The 0-62mph dash takes just 6.7 seconds, and the top speed is 140mph.
That puts the 595 Competizione on a par with the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and VW Polo GTi. That means its performance is credible to say the least.
The engine also sounds menacing, which isn’t common for a-1.4 litre engine. That’s largely assisted by the Record Monza exhaust fitted to the 595 Competizione as standard. The exhaust will gurgle and pop all day long!
Surprisingly, the car comes with a sport button but no option to close the values on the exhaust. So it’s in ‘antisocial’ mode all the time.
Great when you want to blast down a country lane, but not so great when you have an early starts for work.
After a while, this does become a bit tiresome. As it does, I expect, for your neighbours. Don’t be too surprised if get removed from the Christmas card list after buying a 595 Competizione.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that the ride of the 595 Competizione, on its Koni dampers, is rather firm. Sure, on a spirited drive this makes the Abarth composed, allowing you to keep pushing its limits.
But on busier road surfaces, at lower speeds, some people may find the ride a little too firm. The (relatively) large alloy wheels and low profile tyres don’t help.
It picks up every single lump and bump on the road surface, making for a rather jittery journey through town. This could become annoying in the longer term.
One pleasant surprise was the amount of feedback the car gave through the chunky steering wheel. You can tell what the front wheels are doing, and the steering is direct. On the downside, the steering wheel is too big to make the Abarth feel properly chuckable.
The mechanical limited-slip differential sets the 595 Competizione apart from other cars in this segment. Though, rather annoyingly, you can’t turn off the traction control and rely solely on mechanical grip.
Stopping power is impressive too, thanks to the four-piston front brakes courtesy of Brembo.
The seating position is almost perfect. I say almost perfect because I tend to sit lower in most cars, but the Sabelt buckets in the 595 Competizione are fixed-height.
Unlike most hot hatches of this performance level, the 595 Competizione only comes fitted with a 1.4 litre turbocharged T-Jet petrol engine.
Now usually anyone looking for a hot hatch isn’t worrying too much about economy. However, given today’s world, I believe it’s becoming more and more important to have a fun car that’s cheap to run.
Our test car cited a combined fuel economy of 36.7 mpg under the WLTP cycle. On the one hand, the WLTP figures are more realistic so this figure should be achievable – or beatable – in the real world.
The above figure is better than that achieved in the Tipo, which is largely helped by the weight of the car.
That said it isn’t pushing the boundaries of economy, especially given it has a smaller engine and lower kerb weight than pretty much all its competitors.
My Skoda Octavia vRS, with a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine, can deliver similar performance, yet achieve 40-plus mpg on a combined run!
CO2 emissions, as an NEDC equivalent, are 139g/km. That means that first-year VED is £515, which is absorbed into the initial cost with the dealer.
In subsequent years you’ll pay the standard £145, as you would hope. There isn’t much more to say on this, given all other hot hatch rivals are in the same boat.
Oh boy, this will be fun. Let’s not dance around things, and simply discuss the Elephant in the room.
The Abarth595 Competizione isn’t the biggest of hot hatches. In fact is actually one of the smallest cars currently on sale.
The 595 only comes as a 3 door, and getting into the back – for adults at least – requires a complex form of human origami.
Even if you manage to fold yourself into the back, there’s only two seats. And it’s not just getting in and out that’s the issue: adults will find it very cramped with the lack of leg and head room.
The boot capacity is only 185 litres which is just about enough for a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and a bottle of milk. Any more and you’ll have to leave your passengers to walk home…
Bear in mind that we complained about the lack of space on the Kia Picanto, and that actually had 255 litres.
If you’re planning on shoving a pram in the boot, don’t bother! Leave the baby at home because you won’t have the space.
The cabin doesn’t come with many practical storage spaces to help you keep it looking nice and tidy. The glovebox is fairly small and, thanks to those big Sabelt seats, the door bins are difficult to find with the doors shut.
Let’s be honest, if a practical car is on the agenda then the 595 wasn’t be best starting point because it is, ultimately, a supermini. But even as a supermini, there are more practical options.
Unlike the standard Fiat 500, the Abarth 595 Competizione comes with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system as standard.
The system is logical and fairly easy to use. The graphics can feel a little dated but it’s something you become used to. The system comes with navigation, Andoid Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, USB and AUX input.
The 595 Competizione is also available with a Beats audio system. It may be a £350 optional extra, but certainly sounds beefier than the standard unit.
Despite this, your music can soon get drowned out by the Monza exhaust noise. And if you become quite fond of the racket coming from those four tailpipes, you probably won’t see the point of putting music on anyway!
Upfront the driver has a digital instrument display. It’s certainly not the most sophisticated unit, with virtually no customisation available.
It does, however, have cool features such as a G-Force meter, so you can see the extent to which you’re chucking it about.
Other equipment includes rear parking sensors, electric adjustable door mirrors and automatic climate control.
On the safety front, there isn’t really a great deal to report. You get a few airbags, but there’s no autonomous braking system or fancy collision-avoidance system.
You do get hill-start assist, the aforementioned ESC system (which you can’t turn off), and a tyre pressure monitoring system. But nowadays we’ve come to expect more than this, even from a supermini. And the disappointment of a three-star Euro NCAP rating is hard to swallow.
Value For Money
One of the key selling points of the Fiat 500 is that it’s cheap to buy and cheap to run. So to learn that the Abarth 595 Competizione starts at £21,985 might come as a bit of a shock. .
That gets you a majority of the package that we’ve discussed above, but our test car had a few options fitted, that took the price up to £23,385. Now that’s a lot for a hot hatch. Especially for one the size of a shoe with four seats and no boot.
The options fitted to our car were as follows: Metallic paint at £550, Beats Hi-Fi system at £350, an Aluminium Scorpion Antenna Plug at £100, painted Brembo brake calipers in yellow at £200 and alternate side-stripes, bumper inserts and door mirrors in black for £200.
When all is said and done, the Abarth 595 Competizione can’t possibly be regarded as cheap. The interior has a lot of questionable materials, and latest technology is missing in key areas; most notably safety.
That being said, you can see where the money goes. Sabelt seats cost a few quid, as does a Koni suspension system. Brembo brakes aren’t cheap either, nor is a performance exhausts system like the Record Monza on the 595 Competizione. Add all that up and you probably get to around five grand.
I can see the appeal of the 595 Competizione as a weekend toy. Yes, you could get a 2-seater sports car, but trust me this little pocket rocket will give you just as much fun and packs heaps of mad Italian charm.
Or, you could simply go out and buy a car like the Ford Fiesta ST. It’s as fast, sounds just as good, has a much nicer interior and is available as a five-door.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||180PS at 5,500rpm|
|Max torque||250Nm at 3,000rpm|
|Drivetrain||5-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||35 litres|
|Fuel consumption||36.7 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||155 g/km NEDC equivalent|
|Towing capacity||800kg braked / 400kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||185 litres|
|NCAP rating||3 stars|
|Price as tested||£23,385|