Abarth 595 Competizione : First Drive

  • Aug 06, 2015
[caption id="attachment_17362" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione Abarth 595 Competizione[/caption]

Hot hatchbacks are a very popular breed of cars in developed nations. People prefer these compact hatchbacks for their small dimensions leading to easy driveability and maneuverability in urban environs. And under the small bonnets of these everyday small hatchbacks lie equally small, yet rather potent range of powertrains. Put your foot down and these little cars can leave your everyday bigger cars to shame in a heartbeat.

This is what Abarth does with the tiny little 595 Competizione. Based on the extremely popular Fiat 500 supermini, the Abarth 595 is a specially honed track tool, daily run about, tarmac scorcher, motorway mile muncher and style statement, all rolled into one compact package that feels at home anywhere in the civilized world.

After much contemplation since Fiat brought the car to Indian shores, the company has finally launched the car in the country. And we couldn’t help but go for a spin in one on the world class Buddh International Circuit Formula One race track!


[caption id="attachment_17365" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione front Abarth 595 Competizione front[/caption]


Since this is essentially a Fiat 500 underneath, the Abarth 595 Competizione is based on Fiat’s Mini platform that underpins a range of small cars of the Fiat Group. Measuring in at 3,657mm in length, 1,627mm in width and 1,428mm in width, the Abarth 595 Competizione is easily the smallest ‘luxury’ hatchback in the country. Yes, the car will fit into the luxury car market here in India considering its Rs. 29.85 lakh ex-showroom Delhi price tag and its compact dimensions.

As you can see here, those numbers and the car’s quirky profile give the 595 Competizione a very tight and small appearance. The front bumper is a large tall unit that comprises the entire front end of the car. Above the lower mock bumper section that houses a large airdam to cool that engine, a sharp kink rises that then starts to taper off rearwards. Something that is then continued by the upward sloping bonnet sporting a narrow power dome in the center. The grille itself is a tiny unit located at the aforementioned kink in the bumper. Above this is an equally long black plastic section that houses a large black plastic section with the prominent yellow and red scorpion logo at the center.

[caption id="attachment_17369" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione front grille Abarth 595 Competizione front grille[/caption]

The front end of the car is also dominated by a barrage of lights comprising of the large circular head lamps at the top, two more lamps placed below at the edge of the front profile and two fog lamps housed within the pillars of the airdam.

The front profile of the car has a continuous and well integrated look with the bonnet shut line being the only small break. The large windscreen, A-pillars (that are narrower towards the top) and stalk mounted black ORVMs complement the quirky and unique front profile of the car. There is no mistaking this car for anything else other than a Fiat 500. Something that works rather well to identify the brand.

[caption id="attachment_17376" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione  side profile Abarth 595 Competizione side profile[/caption]

The side profile of the Abarth 595 Competizione too has a single-piece appearance. The steeply raked A-pillars and C-pillars blending the glass house of the compact car beautifully. Infact, the glass house dominates the top portion of the side profile while the rear spoiler lends a nice edgy look to the car and so does the side skirt of the car. And those large 17 inch five-hole allow wheels only up the ante for this car’s racy appeal. In between all these elements is a large door, a mild beltline running across the short side profile, accompanied by Abarth stickering and badging to lend a bit of flair to the otherwise sublime side profile of the 595. I also absolutely love the way the lower section of the rear end tapers out to house the rear wheels right at the edge for maximizing cabin space and leading to fantastic handling traits as well.

[caption id="attachment_17374" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione  rear profile Abarth 595 Competizione rear profile[/caption]

The rear profile of the Abarth 595 Competizione has an almost triangular appearance. With its big, flared rear bumper that barely manages to contain those large performance tyres. The lower center section incorporates an air diffuser with two nice and large circular chrome tail pipes. There are also air dams on either side. The tall chrome-surround tail lamps have been given a dual profile with the outer side being red housing the stop lamps and rear parking lamps while the inside section houses reverse lights and indicator lamps. The tail gate itself is a tall, steeply raked unit housing a large rear window.


[caption id="attachment_17373" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione  interior Abarth 595 Competizione interior[/caption]


The interiors of the Abarth 595 Competizione are minimalistic and in sync with the car’s performance oriented nature. You do not get a heavy satellite navigation equipped infotainment system or electrical adjustment for the seats. Speaking of the absence of equipment here, the car does not even have a proper glovebox! What you get though is a manual HVAC system, a CD, USB, radio and Bluetooth compatible stereo, power windows, sun roof, steering mounted audio controls, rear defogger and wash wipe, leather upholstery and a turbocharger boost gauge!

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The Abarth Corsa seats by Sabelt feature leather and fabric upholstery. The front units are well bolstered and offer good support. That said I do have a grudge here, you can only reach the seat back recline knob with the door open! And while finding a good seating position here is easy, the same can’t be same about the rear seat as it is quite cramped in this tiny cabin and is best suited for children at the most.

But then again, this high performance supermini is not about practicality if you remember. You do get a usable and relatively generous 185 liters of boot space though for your daily run about.


[caption id="attachment_17364" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione  engine Abarth 595 Competizione engine[/caption]

Engine and Gearbox

Firepower for this feisty supermini comes from the company’s 1.4 litre, 16-valve, DOHC, four cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine. Coincidentally, this is the same engine that does duty under the hood of Fiat India’s petrol mid-size sedan, the Linea TJet. Although, in the 595, the unit has been modified and tweaked to deliver far more power. 162PS of max power @ 5,500 rpm to be precise and 205Nm of max torque @ 2,000 rpm. But that is in normal driving mode. Engage ‘Sports’ mode and the car’s peak torque output shoots up to 230Nm @ 3,000 rpm.

The engine is mated to an automated manual transmission (AMT), which is based on the five-speed manual unit that is available as an option in international markets. Unlike, other AMT units, the example on the 595 does not get a traditional shift lever. Instead, there are four buttons on the console space for the lever. N - stands for Neutral, R - for Reverse, 1 - for engaging normal Drive mode and A/M for engaging manual mode. The 595 Competizione comes with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for executing manual gear changes.

[caption id="attachment_17361" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione   dynamic Abarth 595 Competizione dynamic[/caption]

In the brief time that I spent behind the wheel of the car, I noticed that right from the word go, there is a throaty engine note. Spin the engine harder as you exit the pit lane on the BIC and the car surges forward with good intention as the engine note turns to a more inspiring and louder throaty soundtrack.

Acceleration is brisk in sports mode and the engine revs freely right up to the 6,500 rpm mark. As for the automated manual gearbox, well it is a typical AMT unit and you need to lift off before changing up for the quickest gear changes, otherwise there will be some lag between you tugging on that right paddle and the transmission giving you the next gear in a jerky manner. And when I was beginning to get the gear changes right the gear changes were still jerky, but response was quick and acceptable. It is when you are pushing the car to its very limits that you realize that this a more hardcore and track focused car rather than a more rounded package.

Keep the right peddle pinned to the carpet and the Abarth 595 Competizione will hit a little over 170 km/h on the back straight of the BIC. Straightline stability is excellent and the car despite its small footprint remains absolutely planted at all times. With its AMT gearbox, the Abarth 595 Competizione has a 0 - 100 km/h time of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 205 km/h.


[caption id="attachment_17359" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione s on BIC Abarth 595 Competizione s on BIC[/caption]

Ride and Handling

Underpinned by McPherson strut front suspension and twist axle rear suspension, the Abarth 595 Competizione features Copaf suspension components at the front and Koni dual valve shock absorbers at the rear. There are coil springs all around and anti-roll bars front and rear.

This translates to quite a stiff ride I must say. This was in fact great for the Buddh International Circuit. The electronic power steering unit is not the most feelsome unit in the world, but its not bad either for an electronic unit and feels quite direct.

[caption id="attachment_17363" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione   rear dynamic Abarth 595 Competizione rear dynamic[/caption]

String together a couple of bends and the Abarth 595 Competizione simply darts in and out of them with minimal body roll, direct steering control and commendable grip from the low profile 205/40 R17 section Pirelli P Zero tyres. And while the suspension feels stiff, ride comfort over the kerbs was not too bad and the car remained thoroughly composed.

[caption id="attachment_17381" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione alloy wheel Abarth 595 Competizione alloy wheel[/caption]

All in all, it was truly a lip smacking experience to dart through some of those corners. The car’s torque transfer control technology moderates power between the front wheen at bends to ensure optimum power is sent to each wheel while cornering. Although, on the really tight bends such as on Turn 1 and Turn 2, the 205/40 sections run out of grip pretty soon, this combined with the narrow width of the axles on the small Abarth means that you will hit understeer. You then learn to cut speeds further down for these corners, and then the 595 Competizione will dart out of tight bends in a very composed and purposeful manner.


[caption id="attachment_17358" align="alignnone" width="1280"]Abarth 595 Competizione  badge Abarth 595 Competizione badge[/caption]


Abarth 595 Competizione without a doubt is an exciting driver’s car that will tingle your senses every time you get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, due to our market dynamics, the car had to come with an automatic gearbox. But then again, when you are coming up with this niche an offering in the country, and the whole point of a car is driving pleasure, Fiat should really have brought the manual model to make it as engaging to drive as it should be!

This is the biggest flaw in the Abarth 595 Competizione as a driver’s car. Otherwise, everything is just spot on in this hot hatchback. It handles well on a track, power delivery is great in sports mode and it is very well balanced and composed at high speeds on the straights as well as bends.

People will complain that it is cramped for rear seat occupants, but the whole point of a hot supermini is agility and driving pleasure. And on these grounds the Abarth 595 Competizione is brilliant, apart from that AMT, which you need to get used to. Now, can we have that manual model please Fiat India?

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