Parkers overall rating: 3.2 out of 5 3.2
  • Three power outputs on offer
  • 595 Competizione offers the most thrills
  • Stick with the standard manual gearbox

The Abarth 595 is available in three different trim levels – each one extracting different levels of power from the car’s 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Customers also have the option of a robotised sequential gearbox – essentially an automatic gearbox with a manual override – which added £1,350 onto the price of the car at time of writing. We’d save the money and stick with the easy-to-use manual transmission no matter which 595 you go for, however.

Three different power outputs

The entry-level 595 boasts the smallest power output of the range, producing 145hp and 206Nm of torque from its 1.4-litre engine.

This translates into a 130mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds for the manual and 8.0-seconds for the robotised sequential gearbox. Even with such modest performance figures, the regular 595 could well be all the car many Abarth buyers will ever need.

Next up is the mid-range 595 Turismo trim, which gains an upgraded turbo and performance air filter over its lesser sibling. This means it’s good for 165hp and 230Nm of torque – gains of 20hp and 24Nm respectively over the regular 595. As a result, 0-62mph drops down to 7.3 seconds (7.4 for the robotised sequential gearbox), while top speed is bumped up to 135mph.

Both the 595 and 595 Turismo require the Sport drive mode to be engaged in order to get maximum torque from the car. This setting also sharpens up the steering and throttle response in all 595 variants.

Sat at the top of the 595 range is the flagship Competizione model. Although sharing many of its performance parts with the 595 Turismo, the Competizione ekes out a further 15hp from its 1.4-litre engine, producing 180hp and 250Nm of torque – not an inconsiderable amount in a car weighing just 1,035kg.

The end product is a punchy, exciting engine that relies on its turbo to provide the lion’s share of power and torque. Said turbo works best after 3,000rpm, at which point the 595 Competizione has strong but linear power delivery until its 6,500rpm redline. Raw figures are 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds (6.9 for the robotised sequential gearbox) and a 140mph top speed.

It doesn’t feel quite as quick as a Ford Fiesta ST or Peugeot 208 GTI, but the 595 Abarth Competizione’s acceleration has a relentless quality to it.

Small car, big exhaust

For driving enthusiasts, the Record Monza quad-exhaust system exclusive to the 595 Competizione steals the show. Crackling, burbling and rumbling through the gears, it gives the little Fiat a selling point few rivals can compete with and really adds to the occasion.

Be warned, however, some drivers may find its constant vocals tiring, especially when cruising on motorways or driving around late at night.

  • Fun handling and high grip levels
  • Torque Transfer Control improves cornering
  • Lacks the poise and stability of rivals

The pint-sized Abarth is nimble and darty on twisting roads, offering a keen sense of fun and plenty of cornering grip in the dry. There isn’t the same confidence-inspiring front-end stability and adjustability as the Ford Fiesta ST or Peugeot 208 GTI, however, and many will have to get used to the elastic-feeling steering.

Clever electronic assistance as standard

In a bid to help the front-wheel drive Abarth pull its way through tight bends, the Italian manufacturer has fitted a gadget called Torque Transfer Control (TTC) as standard on all 595s. It operates by automatically braking the inside wheel and using it as a pivot point when accelerating through a corner, tightening the car’s line.

It works well and allows the driver to safely carry more speed through bends, yet there’s always a sense that the wheels are overly eager to spin under acceleration and lose traction in the more powerful models. Indeed, get too eager with the throttle while cornering and the front end will squirm around under power as the tyres struggle to deal with the levels of torque.

Upgraded brakes and suspension on 595 Competizione

Customers who are willing to splash out on the most expensive 595 Competizione model will get upgraded suspension and high-end Brembo brakes. The latter offer excellent feel and feedback through the pedal while keeping the car stable under hard braking.

The suspension, meanwhile, isn’t overly firm and performs well on smooth roads yet struggles when faced with sharp bumps mid-corner, unsettling the balance of the car.

For those after the optimum 595 driving experience, Abarth will also fit a limited-slip differential to the 595 Competizione in order to dramatically increase cornering grip and traction. It works like a more effective, mechanical version of the TTC system and should help reign in the high levels of torque.