Review: Abarth 595 2018

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Author: | Updated: 18 Oct 2018 03:13

The Abarth 595 is far more than a macho Fiat 500. Considering its attractive price point, it offers a combination of style and performance that's pretty unique.

The Fiat 500 remains extremely popular, even after 10 years on the market. Recently, however, it’s the car’s souped-up sibling that’s stealing the headlines: the Abarth 595. Yes, behind the bright paint job and gloss-black highlights it’s still essentially that cute, ever-so slightly effeminate city car. But we’re not denying that.

The more significant factor is that it offers bucket loads of fun for not a lot of cash – when it comes to leasing one at least. With a recent facelift and record numbers being registered in September, we’ve already considered what it is that makes the 595 such a hit, but now it’s time for a closer look.

Abarth 595 2018 lead

Despite its basic appearance going relatively unchanged since the first 595 hit the market in 2012, various bits and pieces have been tweaked over the years. The most recent 2018 refresh ushers in the same external changes we’ve seen on the latest 500; the rear lights get body-coloured centres, the bumpers have softer edges and there’s a slightly larger air intake up front.

To those of you that are about to mumble the words “hairdresser’s car”, we suggest you go and drive one.

Abarth-specific bits are there too, with carbon fibre trim, large alloy wheels and an array of the iconic scorpion badges being the most noticeable. Some even louder paint options have been added, with the pictured “Adrenalina Green” leaving you in no doubt that this is something a little more special than your standard 500. Of course, its cute and curvy silhouette means it’s never going to be to everyone’s taste. But to those of you that are about to mumble the words “hairdresser’s car”, we suggest you go and drive one. On that note…

Abarth 595 2018 update seats

If you wanted a relatively swift city car, your options were once limited to the Abarth. However, there’s now cars like the Volkswagen Up! GTI and Renault Twingo GT to consider. Despite the arrival of some new pretenders, the truth is the Abarth beats them both when it comes to fun driving thrills… and not just because it’s got between 30 and 60bhp more (depending on specification).

Even in its most basic 143bhp guise, turning the key of the Abarth will leave you giggling.

Even in its most basic 143bhp guise, turning the key of the Abarth will have you giggling away thanks to that gurgling twin exhaust system. The range-topping Competizione gets a 0-62mph time of 6.7secs and a top speed of 143mph. A limited-slip diff and uprated suspension mean this is the version to go for if you’re really after an involving drive. The howling Record Monza exhaust is standard for the Competizione too, resulting in an even throatier roar if you prod the Sport Button. This also noticeably sharpens up steering and throttle response.

Abarth 595 side

The truth is, whichever model you go for, you’ll have a smile on your face. The 1.4-litre turbo is abnormally rev-happy compared to most other turbos. The driving position might be a little strange at first. The front seats are rather high, the gearstick sprouts out the dash and the pedals are quite close together. In some cars, say, the Up! GTI, those could be considered criticisms. But the Italian oddball gets away with it, because it’s just so much fun.

The cabin is beginning to show its age a little.

The thing we will mark the 595 down on though, is the ride. It’s a car you should be able to hustle down a B-road – and you can – but it’s rather bouncy and unsettled while doing so. You could argue that’s just because the car encourages you to drive it enthusiastically, but round the same bends, it would be wrong to say the Up! GTI is the more composed car.

Unlike the exterior – that remains as fresh as ever in its own kind of way – the cabin is beginning to show its age a little. The look very much depends on the trim in question, with the dashboard being the same colour as the body as standard, while Turismo and Competizione models get slightly sportier trim.

Abarth 595 infotainment

A 5in touchscreen infotainment system remains standard and really doesn’t compare to the latest from some other manufacturers, although a 7in upgrade featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is available, and well worth the upgrade in our opinion. It’s standard on Turismo models.

The 595 can be more practical than you'd think.

As for practicality, if you need lots of space, you’re probably not reading this review. But the 595 is more practical than you’d think. 185 litres of luggage space increases to 550 if you flip the rear seats down. If you’re not after something for the school run, you really shouldn’t write off the Abarth on its size alone.

Abarth 595 2018 update rear

And how much will all this cost? The basic Abarth 595 is priced from £15,980, rising to a hefty £21,280 for the top-of-the-range Competizione. As for lease deals, monthly rates are currently on offer for less than £200 per month. Admittedly the majority are for the most basic 143bhp and 158bhp versions, although if you fancy putting the roof back so you can hear that popping exhaust all the more, the Convertible is worth considering and also available for under that figure.

Up your budget a little over £200, and the entire range is on offer. Considering average rates for the Up! GTI and Twingo GT are around the same or more, the Abarth is a bit of a steal. After all, with its mixture of retro appeal and genuine performance pedigree, it’s closer to a Mini Cooper S in terms of image – and that’s a much pricier proposition.

Model tested: Abarth 595

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