The Fiat 500 Abarth is one of those cars that any true petrol head will want to drive at some point in their life and to be honest it was a bucket list car for me also.
Thanks to Donnelly Group and the staff at their Mallusk site I was fortunate enough to get one for the weekend a while ago now to see just what all the fuss is about with this super-mini from the Italian stable and it lived up to everything I had expected.
So what did I expect… Refined Motoring? Huge luxury? Spacious Cabin? Well none of these in fact as I expected Italian Charm and with it room for improvement in many areas and to feel like a sardine in a tin – a rather fast tin with pin-point handling I must add.
The 595 Abarth didn’t disappoint in the charm stakes – outside it is undoubtedly characterful especially with the added ‘red detail’ options on this particular model tested whilst the two-tone 17” optional upgrade colour coded wheels add a bit of retro appeal.
Some may say this is a cute car but with its ‘nose down – ass up’ stance I see it as a purposeful car for some fast, affordable fun (pricing starts from around £15k) with geometry resembling a go-kart and combined with the dual exit exhaust, rear lower diffuser and roof spoiler it is the perfect getaway for Butch Cassidy.
Butch maybe wouldn’t agree though as he would be hard pushed to fit swag into this little Abarth. For the family owner, the 595 is a car that is best suited as a second car for the daily work commute to easy parking rather than the school run.
That said the boot offered sensible enough room and surprisingly, it accommodated my large camera bag with some room to spare for a few shopping bags to one side. Inside the Abarth could maybe benefit from some more soft touch materials but at the price tag, you get what you see which is fine by me – this car is about the driving experience after all.
With colour coded sections around the dash a rather large boost gauge protrudes from the top of the dash within the middle of which is a rather large ‘SPORT’ logo which glows once you have activated the ‘fun button’ just below the touch screen infotainment system.
Air conditioning features alongside electric windows, alloy pedals, a gear stick that comes out from the dash as well as retro metal-buttoned race-like reclining bucket seats that look absolutely fantastic and offered just enough support and comfort.
A multi-function steering wheel allows easy access to using the voice control, changing the audio volume or DAB radio station as well as answering calls via the Bluetooth. This s‘wheel also has a crimped centre marker at the top inspired from the race track however I do feel a smaller s‘wheel would be beneficial.
This model tested also has the ‘Beats Audio’ upgrade – a full speaker upgrade with sub-woofer integrated into the boot for those times when the suns out and you need to get a little more noticed cruising the Port on a bank holiday weekend!
Returning close to 40mpg – no matter how hard I tried to get that figure down driving around the Ards Penninsula’s fast meandering coastal roads – the 1.4 Turbocharged Petrol engine producing 140hp was surprising to say the least.
Perhaps a little turbo lag up to around 4k rpm, after which the Abarth really came to life and with ‘Sport Mode’ active the throttle response was noticeably better and the steering sharpened up just enough to put a bigger smile on my face.
During my time with the 595 Abarth I did see a ‘TTC’ button on the dash and on reading the owner’s manual I realised this was a further driving aid which most certainly needed to be tested – it is Abarth’s answer to a Limited Slip Differential for ease of explaining.
On a jolly good blast up a local hill climb, in sport mode with TTC engaged the driving difference was incredible. Instead of the traction control systems killing power when wheel slip is detected the TTC system applies brake force to the spinning wheel.
As such keeping maximum power – maximum grip and at all times forward movement. It will never be as good as a mechanical LSD, don’t get me wrong but for an electronic system it does help greatly.
The Pandora Charm sized vehicle is a complete blast and despite its firm ride is more than capable and comfortable on a long run with handling many manufacturers can only dream of – so is the 595 Abarth just right or is there room for more improvement?
When I drove the Fiat 124 Spider [read review here] I said it needed a little more – the Abarth variant gives it what I feel it needs – on paper anyway, as I still need to road test it. So what about the 595 Abarth – what can it offer past Abarth to get the extra hairs on your next standing up?
Well thankfully the Abarth 595 Competizione steps up to the job with 180hp, more focused suspension and really is suited to the more experienced driver wanting every last bit from their pocket rocket!
The crazy Italian’s didn’t stop there however and clearly after too many espresso’s one morning they created the 695 Biposto – think race car made road legal or road car stripped for racing – this is what you get from the Biposto.
The Biposto is the true hidden gem and a car that is also on my bucket list but it also highlights that Fiat have catered for absolutely everyone with the varying Abarth models of its ever popular 500.
With a three-year 60k mile warranty the Abarth is certainly worth the money and considering monthly repayments of around £240/month over four years, based on realistic mileage it is very affordable!
Words and Photos: Graham Curry