A LITTLE SERVE OF VISUAL VERVE
It’s a micro hot hatch that’s fun rather than ferocious
Abarth aims to make inroads in the micro hot hatch segment and a $5000 price cut on its top-tier 595 Competizione should get people’s attention.
The diminutive hatch is a heavy hitter in terms of performance and handling. The $31,990 price before on-roads puts the updated model in the ballpark with rivals such as the Renault Clio RS Sport and Volkswagen Polo GTi. The less potent 595 has dropped by $500 to $26,990.
As with the price, the line-up has been trimmed. The Turismo version has been dropped after the marketers wisely worked out there wasn’t a big enough price gap to justify a mid-spec 595.
A new touchscreen and updated infotainment software now make the 595 a more presentable model from a connectivity viewpoint. It’s quick to pair Bluetooth devices, uses inbuilt satnav so owners don’t chew through data while driving but doesn’t do Android Auto/Apple Carplay mirroring.
More than most, you should be driving this car, not messing about with Facebook updates.
A 595 is fitted with a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster, rear parking sensors, adaptive front suspension and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Competizione adds an inch to the wheel size, leather seats, carbon-fibre highlights on the steering wheel, Koni adaptive dampers, Brembo front brake calipers and a bimodal exhaust to better vent the gasses from the upgraded turbo.
Abarth also says it has revised the 595’s steering wheel position but still couldn’t fit reach adjustment – and that’s what this car needs to counter the too-high seat position found in both versions.
Sitting up like Miss Daisy may be conducive to being seen in the 595; it isn’t as much fun when tyring to tap the performance. The seats themselves are respectably bolstered snugfitting sports buckets.
ON THE ROAD
Buy the five-speed manual version. Not only is it quicker than the optional five-speed auto but it is also far more in sync with the 1.4-litre turbo engine than the soulless auto.
Under acceleration the auto will shift hard enough to jolt the car. It is a trait most evident in auto mode but still reproducible when using the paddle-shifters.
Shift to the manual and the 595 is a terrier chasing rats. It can’t run ’em down on the straights but it will twist and weave around tight turns with charisma, while auto-blipping the throttle on downshifts to emphasise it’s serious.
It is a lot of fun without being ferociously quick and stopping you from appreciating the scenery occasionally, whether from the passenger seat or the helm.
In short, it forms part of your lifestyle rather than part of your pitstop strategy.
There are faster, more committed baby hatches but none has the instant recognition and provenance of the Abarth 595.
The Competitizione’s suspension and steering are too jumpy over potholed back roads in sports mode, meaning you can’t tap as much of the 250Nm as you’d like. Normal mode sorts the steering but the adaptive dampers could still be softer.
The regular car only uses adaptive front dampers but does a better job of quelling repeated small hits as the car rolls from rut to
ridge and makes it easier to judge the shudder that shows up in the steering as the front rubber is punished too hard.
On the top-spec version, the Brembo brakes make light work of hauling in the lightweight hatch and, after a decent downhill run, showed little sign of fading.
The 595 brings visual verve to the micro hot hatch segment. Endowed with grip and go to amuse, it is now at a price that could generate satisfied smiles.