It’s no stretch
ENTRY to a feisty Fiat just got easier and cheaper.
The new Abarth 595 is not as riotously rambunctious as some of the top-end models from Fiat’s performance arm but is more user-friendly and likely to be more popular with buyers.
It’s definitely calm, the ride is more compliant but the cabin needs big improvements. it also lacks the sporty exhaust note of the more hardcore models.
The Abarth 595 is priced from $27,500 — an automatic gearbox adds $2000 and it’s another $3000 for a cabrio roof — for a car which still packs a 1.4-litre turbo engine
The price is $6000 less than any previous Abarth, providing a better bridge from basic 500 models. It should be capable of doubling sales from the modest total of just 120 cars in 2015, as well as keeping potential owners away from rivals such as the Renault Clio RS and Mini Cooper.
“We know there are people looking for something like this,” says Fiat Chrysler Australia’s Alan Swanson.
“It looks like an Abarth but isn’t quite as extreme. Pushed to the limit, it can still have real performance credentials.”
The 595 is more like a detuned 695 Tributo than a tweaked 500. The four-cylinder engine (103kW/206Nm) turns five-speed manual or auto gearboxes and the sporty running gear includes Koni front shock absorbers, vented disc brakes and 16-inch alloy wheels with 45-series tyres.
Facing the driver are a seven-inch display screen, a turbo boost gauge atop the dash and a torque transfer selector to maximise grip on a track.
There are some visual tweaks and twin exhaust tips. There is still no rear-view camera — that will come with the next Fiat 500 — and the driving position is too high for a sporty car.
ON THE ROAD
I’m cramped at the wheel but on a loop out from Hobart into the Tasmanian countryside, I feel confident despite wet and slippery roads.
I’m definitely happier in the 595 than I would be in a highperformance 695 Tributo or the road-racer Bitposto I drove last year, thanks to much more compliance in the suspension and more responsive rubber.
The highs are not as high yet the lows are not as low. The boot is not big, some extra popbang from the exhaust would
It sits 15mm lower than a regular Fiat 500 and has 16-inch alloys but the suspension is nicely tuned to combine a smooth country-road ride with good grip in corners. It’s not fast but it’s still fun.
Only an Abarth enthusiast will pick the minor changes from the Tributo models but it still has the looks to turn heads. be fun but otherwise it’s a comfortable package with enough go for the enthusiast.
“The (outputs) aren’t huge but the car only weighs ( just over) 1000kg,” says Swanson.
ON THE TRACK
Baskerville Raceway outside Hobart is cold and sodden as we arrive to stretch the 595. Grip is limited, the corners are greasy and the ESP intervenes to keep me safe.
The 595 is better than I expect. The softer suspension keeps the wheels well planted and there is none of the wildness of a Tributo at the top end of its turbo rush.
Even when the track dries there is not much grip but that’s just fine.
The car is quick enough to have some fun but not so fast as to be scary.
There is a solid torque shove and the car runs to the red-line at more than 140km/h in fourth gear with every kilowatt wrung out of it.
The shift action is good, the brakes pull the car up evenly and the chassis is wellbalanced, especially considering the short wheelbase brings the potential for the rear end to snap sideways. It’s a little bit special and it’s sure to win friends among those interested in a 500 — who can now get something with the Abarth badge without going into serious debt.