Let's deal with the 'ride' part of this section first, because it's the element, you may be unsurprised to learn, with which the 595 Abarth has the bigger beef. There are no two ways about it: it's firm.

It's firm and composed on good roads, firm and jiggly, sometimes crashy, and almost always a bit noisy, on bad ones. Nuggety, would be polite. Borderline uncomfortable would be more accurate. It's worse than most cars in the class - and not dissimilar to the Renault Twingo 133 with a Cup chassis. A regular 595 Abarth has more pliancy.

The Abarth steers pleasingly, with a fine speed and weight to the system

But it's the sort of thing that, in a hot hatchback, we'll put up with if the trade-off is sharp composure and handling and, here, in fairness, the Abarth Competizione is very good. On smooth roads or circuits it feels fairly nailed to the surface, with precious little roll and a solidity that, say, a regular Mini Cooper S can't match. 

Although it's less powerful than a Mini Cooper S, the Abarth 595 makes a very good fist of matching one around the tracks we use for our road test benchmark figures. On the dry circuit it lags by only 1.9sec and in the wet, it's closer still - just 0.2sec behind.

But as surfaces deteriorate again the Competizione options begin to take their toll a little. There's just so little give during spring compression that the car feels skipped from bump to bump rather than absorbing them en route. It gets better as speed rises but a Clio RS, for example, does it better.

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The Abarth does steer pleasingly, though, with a fine speed and weight to the system, and decent linearity and some feel of front-wheel grip levels; albeit with a hint of springiness around the straight ahead and a touch of torque steer. If you deactivate 'Sport' mode it gets lighter, which is better around town, but you lose some of the feedback.