While it is easy to regard Fiat as stuck in a 500 rut, Iain Robertson reiterates that the company has always been Europe’s ‘small car specialist’ and there are none that come more adorable than the 500, especially in more focussed 595 guises.
The 70th Anniversary 595 range has been formulated to celebrate 70 years of the Italian firm working with Abarth, the sometime separate tuning arm. It is recognisable immediately by bespoke badging, which represents its evolution. The top specification 595 Competizione with its 180bhp engine is intended for fans of performance and racing attitude. Exceptionally well-specified, other standard equipment includes Brembo brakes, Sabelt racing seats and a Record Monza exhaust with an active (Abarth noise) valve controlled by the Sport button. The driver can also choose a more sedate engine sound, if desired.
Packed with connectivity and driver aids, the Abarth 595 Turismo alternative is designed for drivers desiring performance with more comfort. The line-up concludes with the ‘regular’ 595 version, which is armed with 145bhp in entry-level form but offers all the standard equipment needed to please Scorpion-badged model owners, like the flat-bottom steering wheel, allied to lower tax implications and better fuel economy.
The stonking Abarth 595 ‘esseesse’ is back, with new life breathed into it. Originally just a ‘tuning pack’, when it first appeared in 2008, increasing the engine's power to 160bhp, its suspension setup was also beefed-up, with Eibach lowering springs, a higher-powered braking system and other clearly race-inspired details.
Ten years later, ‘esseesse’ returns to the core of the Abarth range and is equipped with the brand's punchiest 180bhp engine. In the best Abarth tradition, this 595 is made extra special by a standard specification that clarions an exciting driving experience, accompanied consistently by the unmistakable grumble of the Abarth exhaust system (by Akrapovic). Custom-developed, it combines outstanding performance with an enticing soundtrack. To increase the power delivery to the front wheels, a mechanical limited slip differential has been fitted to the ‘esseesse’ as standard.
The all-new Abarth 595 ‘esseesse’ also features a high-performance Brembo front brakes, with radially perforated and ventilated front brake rotors and oversized red enamelled brake callipers. The system realigns the brake pads with the disc's braking surface, for rapid heat dispersal and improved responses, when slowing the car. The ‘esseesse’ is identified by its 17.0-inch diameter Supersport alloy wheels in a new Racing White finish, Abarth side stripes, mirror caps and matching front and rear air dams.
Also standard is a specific air filter that provides better intake air flow capacity, with obvious benefits for engine combustion quality, power output and performance delivery. The new ‘esseesse's’ equipment roster is completed by Koni FSD (Frequency Selective Damping) front and rear suspension. For infotainment, the 595 includes navigation with the 7.0" Uconnect HD touchscreen system, including Abarth Telemetry, Apple CarPlay support and Android Auto compatibility as standard.
The car's racy personality is expressed clearly in its ‘Sabelt 70’ sports seats, with carbon back shells, and the carbon pedals. A new range of Sabelt seats is also available on the 595, marking Abarth's 70th birthday, with the number embroidered on the cover. The seats have been redesigned with new shapes, inserts and padding, for an even more supportive driving experience. The range starts at £16,495, rising to £27,295 (prior to discounts being applied).
Excitement comes in a fun-sized bundle (into which I must admit that I experience great difficulty inserting my two metres frame!), with the latest Abarth celebratory versions of the Fiat 500, with additional personalisation potential coming from Fiat’s extensive accessories catalogue. To be frank, this is a sub-compact motorcar that will possess limited appeal to the business community but, for personal transport, perhaps as a second car, it could make a lot of sense.