I’ve been aching to get into the Fiat 500 based Abarth since day one of The Versatile Gent. It’s a car I’ve always applauded for its small size and tremendous character. In the middle of this year, Abarth introduced the 595, a new entry point for the urban pocket rocket starting at $27,500. While the lower price point attracts a new customer, it also places the 595 in a segment of ferocious little hatches including the Fiesta ST, Polo GTI and Clio RS200. Personally, I think it looks better than all three of the cars I’ve just mentioned. However, in my thirty years of existence, I’ve come to learn that looks aren’t everything.
I finished my test period feeling torn. Still, I can’t decide if I loved the Abarth 595c or loathed it – perhaps loathed is a bit rich. Fortunately, the car scenario doesn’t involve the same emotions that exist in a human relationship – there’s just things you like and others you don’t like. I’ll start with what I liked.
Look, Sound, Performance – the three features that drew me to the Abarth from day one. There is no denying that the Abarth 595c has plenty of character and is an absolute hoot to drive. It also sounds hysterical, especially in Sports Mode (which I drove it in the entire time it was in my possession) with its spooling turbo and exhaust crackles – in fact, I challenge you to find a better sounding hatch.
I didn’t spend as much time in the Abarth 595c as I’d hoped to, but I managed to get up to McCarrs Creek Road on my last evening with the car and had an absolute ball. The 103kW 1.4L Turbo is surprisingly spritely and will have you on your way to 100km an hour faster than you’d anticipate. Around the bends the steering is precise; the throttle is sharp, and the suspension allows for an exhilarating and in-tune ride without compromising comfort. I was also very impressed with the amount of space inside the car. Filling the Abarth with four blokes was far easier than I’d expected. There’s ample room for bags when the seats are up and more than enough when the seats are down.
After writing that, even I’m questioning what the issue was. I’ve just described a car that sounds somewhat practical and incredibly enjoyable to drive, and it was, I just had a bunch of qualms.
First and foremost, the seating position. Every time I got into the car, I went to look for something that lowered the seat. The heavily sports orientated seats are not adjustable outside of forwards and backwards, and the steering wheel has no telescopic function meaning you cannot achieve your desired driving position, especially if you enjoy sitting as low as possible.
Unfortunately, the lack of a telescopic steering wheel only exacerbated my issues with the wheel itself, which in my opinion was cumbersome – too thick to hold and too big for the little car. I was also disappointed to discover locking it left or right resulted in one of the poorest turning circles I’ve experienced in a car for some time, which is baffling in a car that is marketed as an agile city runabout.
Finally, the Bluetooth system was horrendous. Outside of having no navigation screen, I still to this day do not know if you can play music through the unit. I managed to hook up my phone but couldn’t work out how to play music. What made it even more frustrating was that every time my phone rang the shrill and ear piercing sound that emitted from the speakers startled me to the point of anger. I ended up disconnecting my phone altogether and with nowhere in reach to put it, was left disenchanted by the Abarth.
For me, the Abarth 595c just doesn’t do enough to lure me in at roughly $40k plus. There’s no doubt it has the character and performance to enlist smiles from all who see it, hear it and drive it, but it’s the little things that let this punchy package down. Little everyday things that will leave you frustrated every day.
For more info on the 595 and the new 124 Spider head to the Abarth website.