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Abarth 595

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By Jonathan Crouch

The Fiat 500 shucks off its cutesy image with its purposeful Abarth 595 variants. Jonathan Crouch drives the latest version.

Ten Second Reviewword count: 60

There's something just so right about a beefy engine in a tiny car. The Abarth 595 models take that formula and really ramp up the details. Whether you choose the standard 595, the Turismo or the F595 version, you get a 1.4-litre T-Jet turbo engine driving the front wheels in a lightweight body that spells fun with a huge F.

Backgroundword count: 148

The Abarth name might be a bit of a mystery to some younger buyers who won't remember it being plastered over hot Fiats of the Seventies and early Eighties. In case you were wondering, the Abarth name has been owned by Fiat since 1971, but it was originally the racing team of Carlo Abarth, founded in Turin in 1949. A long and illustrious competition history lent the Scorpion badge quite some kudos and those of a certain age will go a little dewy eyed remembering cars like the Autobianchi A112 Abarth and the Fiat 131 Abarth. In later years, Fiat used the badge sparingly, although it appeared on some fairly undistinguished vehicles like the Fiat Stilo. These days, Abarth is a separate division, housed in the old Mirafiori factory. It's responsible for these Abarth 595 models, probably the best cars to wear the badge for many a year.

Driving Experienceword count: 285

In the great scheme of all things hot hatch, the 165hp output you get with an Abarth 595 isn't a huge hill of beans. You can get hatches with more than double that power output, but as recent developments in sports car manufacture has shown, more power doesn't always equate to more fun. If you really feel the need for it in an Abarth, the next stage up lies with 695-series variants which boast an uprated 180hp output. Flog this 165hp version off the line and the 1.4-litre T-Jet turbocharged petrol engine will deliver 62mph to you in a mere 7.3 seconds en route to a top speed of 134mph. Thanks to the recently updated Garrett turbo, there's decent pulling power through the gears too - 230Nm of it from just 3,000rpm, which means that 50 to 75mph takes only 7.8s. In the 180hp 695 derivative, those figures improve to 6.7s and 140mph. That should be quick enough to get your jollies. Useable power in a small package? Brilliant. The engine uses an over-boost function which modulates the amount of available turbo boost and is activated by a 'Scorpion' button on the steering wheel. Carried over from the original Abarth 500 model is Torque Transfer Control, which helps to improve the transfer of torque to the driven wheels. We tried an F595C variant with a five-speed manual gearbox: urban dwellers also have the option of specifying an MTA paddle-shift 5-speed automatic. Beyond the city limits, as you'd hope, this little Latin micro hot hatch grips through the turns tenaciously, helped by bespoke Koni rear suspension. It stops arrestingly too, thanks to Abarth's special, high-performing braking system which offers 284mm front and 240mm rear ventilated discs.

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Category: Sporting Cars

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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