Sometimes you can deal with ride and handling as a whole, so neatly blended are the two elements of a car’s dynamic make-up. Not so the Abarth. This is a car that has ride. And it has handling. And one is considerably better than the other.

It’ll not surprise you to learn, we suspect, that the ride is the lesser of the two characteristics. The tyres – 205/40 R17 Pirelli P Zeros – are no more aggressively profiled than those of many rivals, but this car is hard. The town ride veers somewhere between aggressive and shocking, crashing over bumps and thumping in and out of potholes. If someone had told you that the transporting blocks had been left in the springs, you’d go and check rather than laugh it off.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The TTC system is quite good, but it's not always on in the background

However, there is a pay-off to that paranoid level of body control, and it comes in the precision of the Abarth’s movements when things get twistier. On tracks like those at MIRA, or on good, smooth roads, the Abarth nicks along with rewarding precision and impressive agility.

On busier road surfaces, things are inevitably livelier inside the cabin, too. The body stays less flat than in, say, a Fiesta ST or even a Clio RS 200 but stops short of feeling like you’re being bucked along. Just about.

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At 2.5 turns from lock to lock, the steering’s speed feels ‘right’ – neither nervy nor lethargic – although we’d prefer more consistency to the weight, which can build quite quickly off straight-ahead. If it were more linear, you’d say that it was feelsome. As it is, it’s a mite peculiar, but accurate enough.

And the balance is good. At its limit, the 595 will understeer at first, but a trailed brake or a throttle lift keeps it more neutral. It’s keen, hard and composed, in a slightly one-dimensional but enjoyable fashion.

The 595 is a tidy circuit car – composed, grippy, capable and fun. If you’re pressing on, it’s best to engage Sport mode, which sharpens response and weights up the electrically assisted steering. It doesn’t make a discernible difference to the stability control, mind, but that cuts in and out with such finesse that it’s no big deal that it stays active.

Engaging TTC (Torque Transfer Control), meanwhile, makes quite a large difference. Instead of allowing an inside wheel to spin, when engaged it brakes that wheel while allowing power to direct itself as normal to the outside.

It also seemingly relaxes the traction control, allowing both wheels to spin up in low-grip conditions. In the dry, it lets the Abarth put down more power, more often, which helps this little car make very tidy progress, as do its powerful, fade-resistant brakes.

There isn’t the same level of throttle adjustability as in a Ford Fiesta ST, because most of the grip limitations are focused around the front wheels, but it’s very agile and quite engaging.

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