What is it?
With the Abarth 124 Spider doing most of the headline-grabbing lately, it’s all too easy to forget that it’s the car that we’re testing here which put the Italian tuning company back on the map. First released in 2008, the 500 Abarth, with its cutesy looks, characterful engine and classless image showed that Abarth could stand on its own as a separate marque from Fiat. That's no easy feat - just ask Citroën about DS.
However, in recent years, the car has struggled somewhat, with its premium price putting it directly in the firing line of some exceptionally talented hot hatches. Abarth’s response? To release a run of even more expensive special editions, such as the 695 Tributo Ferrari, Abarth 595 Yamaha Factory Racing and 695 Biposto – the latter coming equipped with a spectacularly expensive £8,500 race-bred five-speed dog ring gearbox.
However, the car has been treated to a refresh that isn’t absurdly expensive or limited run; the latest 595 being launched in a three-trim line-up with three different engine outputs. All are equipped with the familiar turbocharged 1.4-litre T-Jet motor, but it’s the top-spec 178bhp Competizione model that we’re particularly interested in. Chiefly, because it comes with an all-new mechanical limited-slip differential.
Buyers of the manual Abarth 595 Competizione can also specify 17in Supersport alloys on their car, as part of a new Performance Pack, which adds Sabelt leather and Alcantara seats with carbonfibre shells, 595 badging in the interior and a red, white or gloss black finish for exterior and interior trim. As standard, the Competizione also gets uprated Koni FSD dampers all-round and a more potent Brembo braking system with 305mm perforated discs.
We tested the Competizione in Italy late last year, and were impressed with its revised chassis, but now it’s time to subject it to bumpy British B roads, the ultimate lie-detector test.