Abarth 595 hatchback
"The Abarth 595 is a sporty hatchback based on the Fiat 500 that is characterful and fun to drive"
- Plenty of character
- Sporty looks
- Reasonable running costs
- Ride is very firm
- MINI Cooper S is a better all-rounder
- Top-spec Competizione model is expensive
The Abarth 595 is a hot hatchback based on the dinky Fiat 500. Using that car’s basic shape, Abarth has added a muscular bodykit, sporty alloy wheels and a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine with an extra dose of power that increases as you move up the range.
The latest 595 is essentially a facelifted Abarth 500 and reflects the changes Fiat made to the standard car. The Abarth now boasts the latest Uconnect infotainment system and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, as well as some styling tweaks inside and out. In late 2018, the Abarth 595 range was tweaked again, subtly changing its looks and introducing new kit.
The 595 line-up consists of four cars: the standard 143bhp 595, the mid-range 163bhp Turismo and the hardcore 178bhp Competizione and Esseesse models The latter comes with stiffer suspension and the option of a limited-slip differential to enhance the car’s performance in corners. The Esseese comes with the differential as standard, along with an upgraded chassis, Brembo brakes, a set of racing seats and an exhaust from specialists Akrapovic.
Thanks to the 595’s relatively low weight, economy isn’t unreasonably bad for a car focused on driving thrills, but practicality is naturally hampered by the 595’s city-car dimensions. All models in the range have firm suspension, particularly the Esseesse, so poorly surfaced roads can get quite uncomfortable.
Overall, however, the 595 is lots of fun to drive and that’ll be the number-one priority for most people considering buying one. It feels nimble and sharp in corners, the engine sounds great and its small size and low weight helps on narrow, twisty roads. While some hot hatchbacks are better all-rounders than the Abarth 595 (the MINI Cooper S, to name but one) few have as much raw character.
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There's also a limited-edition 695 model in the form of the Rivale, made as a tie-in with yacht builder Riva, and featuring a special two-tone paint finish.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Abarth 595 comes in four different power outputs, but because they all use the same turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine (tweaked to provide more or less power), Abarth claims roughly the same efficiency figures for all models in the range. Economy stands at 39.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 151g/km for the automatic gearbox, those figures improve to 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 134g/km. for the entry-level version, while upgrading to the Turismo sees economy decrease to 38.2mpg and emissions rise to 155g/km. Emissions remain the same for the Competizione and Esseesse but fuel consumption takes another slight hit, dropping to 36.7mpg. Road tax costs a flat £145 a year across the board.
Engines, drive & performance
There are four 595 models to choose from. The standard 595 comes with 143bhp, the 595 Turismo has 163bhp and the range-topping Competizione and Esseesse both have 178bhp and are intended to be the most hardcore versions. The entry-level car can manage 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds, the Turismo takes 7.3 seconds and the Competizione and Esseesse do it in 6.7 seconds.
We think the 595 Esseesse is the best of the bunch from a driving perspective. The Competizione has firmer suspension than the other three models in the range thanks to stiffer Koni shock absorbers. This firmness and the car’s accurate steering and slick gearbox mean it can change direction with great speed and balance. There's also a limited-slip differential to improve traction, lifted from the hardcore and limited-run Abarth 695 Biposto, along with Sabelt bucket seats and Brembo brakes to ensure you have plenty of stopping power.
The range-topper and 595 Trofeo also come with the sporty ‘Record Monza’ exhaust, which adds another layer of pleasure to the 595 driving experience. From late 2018, owners can also press a Sport button to make the exhaust quieter or even louder, while also adjusting the engine's power delivery and steering feel. The Esseesse sees this replaced with an exhaust from specialist Akrapovic that gives the 595 a bigger personality than its small size suggests.
There’s no escaping that the firm ride makes the car pretty uncomfortable after a while, but on the right road the Competizione and Esseesse versions are seriously quick and a pleasure to drive.
Interior & comfort
Every Abarth 595 now comes with Fiat’s seven-inch Uconnect infotainment screen with Live services as standard. It's not class-leading but it works well enough and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as having DAB radio. It also features Abarth Telemetry, which can monitor your lap times around pre-loaded racing circuits. Sporty bucket seats on the Esseesse model look great and are surprisingly comfortable, too, but overall the seating position – as it did in the previous version – feels a little too high, as if you're standing above the pedals. There's no reach adjustment for the steering wheel either.
All 595s feel very firm, particularly the Esseesse, and this can make it an uncomfortable car on all but the smoothest roads. Similarly, the noisy, almost raucous, exhaust note is lots of fun when you’re in the mood, but it can get a bit tiring when you’re taking things more leisurely. At least the Record Monza exhaust fitted to the Competizione versions can be made quieter if you turn off Sport mode.
Practicality & boot space
The 595 is a small, three-door hatchback, so inevitably practicality isn’t its strong suit. Getting in the back isn’t a hugely comfortable experience and there’s only room for two people once there – although rear-seat passengers do have a relatively decent amount of legroom, even with tall people sitting in the front.
Boot space is pretty tight at 185 litres, however the rear seats fold down to create a 550-litre space if you really need some extra room. A MINI has slightly more space, plus its boot is easier to use; the shape of the 595 means the boot lip is relatively high and the opening is quite narrow.
Reliability & safety
Fiat has historically had a reputation for making unreliable cars, which doesn’t bode particularly well for Abarth, as the 595 and 695 are based on the Fiat 500, but things seem to be on the up according to our 2019 Driver Power survey. Neither the 595 nor 695 sell in sufficient numbers to make it into our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but the Fiat 500 came 65a reasonable 58th out of 100 cars in 2018 , with a fairly low 11% of owners reporting a fault in the first year. and Fiat came 15th out of 30 brands in the manufacturer rankings, ahead of marques including Audi and MINI.
While the Abarth 595 hasn't been crash-tested, the Fiat 500 it's based on first received five stars from Euro NCAP in 2007, but could only manage three after updates and a re-test in 2017. While fitted with anti-lock brakes and airbags, the Abarth misses out on some of the latest safety kit like autonomous emergency braking.