Abarth is the athletic arm of Fiat – and the 595 is a whirlwind of fun, as motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay, discovered.
At first glance, the 595 looks like a training shoe with an engine. It’s a tiny car that appears to have spent every spare second at the gym. It’s miniature, yet muscular, and you just know it’s going to be something special when you gun the engine.
The Abarth 595 is based on the Fiat 500, but this vehicle has a powerplant with more poke than you can shake a stick at. The lump inside the Abarth has an engine as big as you’d find in a family-sized hatchback. Yes, the 595 has no less than a 1.4-litre petrol turbo unit under its minute bonnet – and that means all sorts of craziness is possible. The turbocharged engine, normally fitted to Fiat’s Tipo, usually comes with 120ps, but the fine-tuners at Abarth have upped the clout to 165ps. Again, that’s the sort of output you’d expect from a large car – and, remember, this is a tiny one.
The Abarth 595 is so diminutive, you’re realistically looking at getting two kids, or two short adults, in the rear. The boot on the convertible 595C Turismo, tested here, isn’t massive, either – but that’s no shocker. With 185-litres available, it’ll swallow a few bags of shopping, but you might struggle getting a tot’s buggy in there.
The two-door car shoots from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds, and it’ll carry on accelerating to 135mph. Yep, that’s the kind of velocity that will get you a driving ban, so this vehicle needs to be operated with a rational mind – even if the 595 itself is the furthest thing from sane. Things become even more nuts, though when you realise there’s a Sport button, too. Press this, and the car’s throttle response is boosted, while the steering becomes weightier. What’s more, the Abarth 595’s digital instrument cluster metamorphizes into a racing-car-esque display, showing a G-meter. This basically shows you how much sideways energy is produced as you hoon around corners. It’s the kind of toy you’re more likely to find in a supercar, so it’s entertaining to see that Abarth has fitted one to the 595.
Even if you don’t press the pedal to the metal, the Abarth 595 feels like it’s drunk too much coffee. It darts around like you’re in a black and white sped-up episode of the Keystone Cops. And the stiff ride, although not kind to your back, means the 595 doesn’t suffer from body roll, so it goes around corners like a go-kart with Velcro on its wheels. The convertible 595C Turismo ups the ante when a nice day allows you to zip the roof open. A couple of pushes of a switch peels the fabric-top back electrically, enabling you to feel the breeze on your bonce. This magnifies the car’s craziness further, meaning that on urban streets you feel as though you’re moving at 60mph, when actually, you’re doing 30mph.
Indeed, city driving is where the Abarth 595 is most at home. Take it further, as I did on a 100mile trip from Northamptonshire to Hampshire, and you’ll know all about it. The manual transmission only has five gears, and on longer runs you feel you need a sixth cog. You’ll also know you did every one of those 100 motorway miles because your back will be aching, your ears will be ringing and your hands will be buzzing. Yes, the Abarth, in 595C Turismo guise, is a noisy little beast, and the vibrations from the steering wheel do get to your hands, while potholes make you feel like you’ve hit a crater. But, hey, at least you can thank the Italian brand for making you feel alive!
Before driving the Abarth 595C Turismo, I must admit I was a tad uneasy. A six-foot-tall guy with a beard and no hair looks more suited to a motorbike or a bigger car. But then I realised I was stereotyping, and even though we all do it, I had to shake my concerns away. And they certainly blew away once the 595’s key was turned. Open topped, or not, the Abarth’s raspy exhaust note sounds utterly ferocious. Yes, it can get wearing on an extended drive, but you’ve got to admire the tune from the tailpipes. Hear it and you’d swear a Maserati was burbling away, rather than a car that looks like, and is almost the size of, a sneaker.
The Abarth 595C Turismo is also crammed full of equipment to keep you safe and entertained. My test vehicle came with a DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat nav, climate control, electric windows and rear parking sensors. There are also handy USB and 12V sockets to charge electrical devices on the move.
The absolute awesomeness of the Abarth 595 lends it huge appeal. The minuscule, yet rapid, motor is a cool city car with a nonconformist temperament that just makes you fall in love with it, warts and all. Why not contact Perrys Abarth Aylesbury to find out more?
Pros ‘n’ Cons
- Fun √
- Powerful √
- Sound √
- Grip √
- No Sixth Gear X
Fast Facts (Abarth 595C Turismo 165 – as tested)
- Max speed: 135 mph
- 0-62 mph: 7.3 secs
- Combined mpg: 47.1
- Engine layout: 1368cc 4-cylinder turbo petrol
- Max. power (PS): 165
- CO2: 139 g/km
- Price: £20,360.