When the Abarth 595 Competizione first arrived at the office, I looked at it in the car park and I wondered what it was for.
It was bright yellow, with the looks of a performance car in spite of being a Fiat 500. On paper it is not a strong performance model, with a 0-100km/h time of 6.7-seconds and then there is its R443 450 price which seems ludicrous.
Then I climbed into those great bucket seats and turned the key. Blimey, it’s a bright yellow bulldog that’s eaten too much curry, I thought. The exhaust burbles, pops and bangs and then you slot it into first gear and the thing just growls at you.
On the road it feels like a sports car, not in its performance, but in that you feel low to the ground, the suspension telling you about the road surface beneath you in detail while the torque steer forces you to wrestle with the steering wheel whenever you demand a bit of power to turn. It is all quite involved and surprisingly fun.
Then I flicked through the digital instrument display and found all sorts of things. The most surprising was a G-force meter — in a Fiat 500. Actually let me point out that it does not wear a Fiat badge, this is an Abarth from Fiat’s performance division, but let’s not split hairs.
The 595 is all about the fun factor, something to make you grin and forget the stresses of the day. It grips well in spite of the torque steer and it felt like there was a hand from above holding it in place. Remember when you were a child playing with a toy car on a mat with roads? That car always trued perfectly because you were holding it. The 595 is the same, it just darts around, grunting like a happy bulldog and doing what you tell it too. It is the grown up Matchbox Superfast (millennials will have to look that up).
It is not the most practical with those bucket seats and small boot. It is definitely not a car for a long journey. What it is, is a car to have fun in, a car to show you are not a drone, a slave to the daily routine.
It says your notion of getting from A to B is to do so with a massive grin on your face.
The price makes it far from a sensible purchase, but this is not a sensible car. It is something to enjoy if you have the money and another (sensible) car in the garage. I was sad to see it go. – Mark Smyth
Fast Facts: 2017 Abarth 595 Competizione 1.4T
Engine: 1368cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 132kW at 5 500rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 3 000rpm
Transmission: five-speed manual
0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 225km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 6.0l/100km (combined)
CO2: 139g/km (combined)
Price: From R443 450