Fiat 500 Abarth review
Fiat 500 Abarth is a racy hot hatchback with the sweet looks of the iconic city car - but a firm ride lets it down
An aggressive bodykit, stiffer suspension and plenty of extra horsepower. It rivals the Ford Fiesta ST, and MINI Cooper S and features a 1.4-litre petrol engine in various guises of tune. In 2016 the range received a facelift and most Abarth models received new model names (the 500 name was dropped in favour of 595, 595 Turismo, 595 Competizione and 695 Biposto) and improved power and eco credentials.
The range now kicks off with the Abarth 595 with 140bhp, then there's the 162bhp 595 Turismo, followed by the 595 Competizione, Esseesse and 695 with 177bhp. Customers also have the choice of the Scorpionero and Monster Energy Yamaha special editions, both with 162bhp outputs
The Abarth 595 gets a leather steering wheel, parking sensors (convertible only), Bluetooth, smartphone connectivity, sports seats and a sport drive mode.
Engines, performance and drive
The Abarth is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, but it doesn't feel like it's lacking any power - when the turbo kicks in it feels pretty fast on the road, and it's a fun engine to drive with.
The Abarth gets lower suspension and bigger brakes, meaning the ride is really firm. On a twisty road, however, it's a heap of fun - but the engine needs to be on boost before you can really get going, because when you change gear sometimes it takes far too long to get into the power band. Tyre and wind noise are very intrusive, but the tuned exhaust sounds great.
The Esseesse and Competizione versions are loaded with mechanical treats and feature a high performance BMC air filter, Brembo brakes, Koni front and rear suspension, an Akrapovic exhaust system and a limited slip differential. It's the same package for the top 695 variant, although it has a four-tailpipe 'Record Monza' exhaust system - a tribute to the speed record broken by company founder Carlo Abarth on the famous Italian circuit.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The standard Abarth 595 has an official fuel consumption figure of 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 155g/km. It qualifies for insurance group 25, so expect a hefty premium, too. The Abarth 595 is very expensive for such a small car, but because of the limited number available, residual values are very good.
Interior, design and technology
The Abarth 595 might still be a Fiat 500 underneath, but thanks to the aggressive bodykit, go-faster stripes, big alloy wheels and Abarth's famous scorpion badges, it's hard to mistake it for the standard car.
Bucket seats, aluminium and rubber pedals, plus red stitching make the interior stand out too. The dash is similar to the standard 500 with the high-set gearstick, but the materials feel a bit too cheap for a car that costs this much more than the standard 500.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The rear seats in the Abarth are very small. The roof is low, so headroom is poor, and the legroom is not suited to adults on any sort of long journey.
With a 185-litre boot, there's not much room for luggage, although by ticking the box for optional folding rear seats you can access a much more practical 550 litres of load space.
The Abarth's compact dimensions mean it's easy to manoeuvre and park (although the bigger wheels and heavier steering mean it's not as good as the normal 500).
Reliability and Safety
The Fiat 500 has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and the Abarth is pretty much identical, so it should be just as safe. It comes with decent safety kit, too, with hill-hold assist and Torque Transfer Control (TTC), which is designed to improve power delivery to the front wheels on corners. There's driver, passenger, side, curtain and knee airbags, too.
While Abarth didn't rank in our 2020 Driver Power survey, the Fiat 500 finished 45th out of 75 cars, while the manufacturer placed 23rd out of 30 car maker brands. There is a dedicated Abarth dealer network on hand to help solve any issues that do arise.