A LIT­TLE SERVE OF VIS­UAL VERVE

It’s a mi­cro hot hatch that’s fun rather than fe­ro­cious

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - MOTORING - CRAIG DUFF

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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