2021 Abarth 595 Competizione Review

An Italian pocket-rocket hot hatch.

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I bet you haven’t seen many of these on the road before – it’s an Abarth 595 Competizione. Abarth is, of course, owned by Fiat and serves as the “AMG” arm of the Italian automaker. There was once a time when Fiat owned Ferrari too, so you would imagine they know a thing or two about producing a performance car.

Now, there is no hiding the fact that the Abarth is tiny – you need to hop out to change your mind, but Abarth’s entire philosophy is about making vehicles that are small and agile, much like the Scorpion that is front and centre in their logo.

Performance though, is a focus too, so you might be surprised to read that this little shoe-box produces 132kW and will hit 100km from a standing start in 6.7 seconds – the same as a VW Polo GTI.

It starts from $32,950 before on-road costs. However, our test vehicle totalled $42,350 before on-road costs thanks to some optional extras – 2 of which are the stunning matte Rally Blue it is dipped in, that adds $1,600 to the price, and the yellow brake calipers, which will set you back an additional $350.

What’s it like inside?

Italian vehicles like those from Fiat and Alfa Romeo often get knocked for oddities that don’t exist in other vehicles. The saying is that “it's very Italian”. With that in mind, we’ll get a few of the quirks out of the way first.

It's a bit of a squeeze if you're taller. The Abarth offers up a higher seating position, which makes quite a lot of sense considering how low the vehicle sits. Unfortunately, though, there is no height adjustment on the Sabelt GT seats that were optioned on our tester – meaning if your head touches the roof, your head touches the roof.

The sunroof doesn’t help this either, eating into the headroom. I found my head touching the roof or having to slouch down a bit to avoid contact. Put it this way, there was so little in it that I had to forget about hats while driving.

If you have longer legs too, you’ll find yourself adjusting the seat backwards, and a lack of reach adjustment in the steering column can make seating positions awkward. Fortunately, I was able to find a nice balance.

It’s not all bad, though.

You get a leather-wrapped steering wheel with carbon fibre inserts which adds to the sporty feel and look of the interior.

As standard inside the 595 Competizione, there are Abarth-emblazoned leather seats and sports pedals. However, our test vehicle was optioned with the $2,500 optional Premium Pack and identically priced Sports Pack.

Optioning the Premium Pack gets you the sunroof we mentioned before, as well as some exterior touches like Xenon headlights and an antenna with an aluminium cap.

The Sports Pack, on the other hand, adds Sabelt GT leather black seats and an Alcantara dashboard, as well as 17-inch matte black wheels on the outside.

While there are pros and cons when plumping for the Premium Pack – namely the sunroof/headroom paradox mentioned earlier – the Sports Pack is probably the one you’ll want to consider as the changes do make a difference inside. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that the original seats do have height adjustment. So for that reason, you would find me leaving that box empty.

Options aside, there is a 7-inch touchscreen display, which is a little outdated in terms of both dimensions and software. However, you can easily connect Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – with the latter, in my experience, working a treat. There is also DAB+ as standard.

Buttons and switches may be showing their age a bit, such as the air conditioning controls, but they all do their job. 

In terms of second-row passengers, forget about it. No-one is going to fit back there. Realistically, it is further storage space that is partitioned from the boot. You’ll fit 2 overnight bags across the back seat – maybe more if you’re good at Jenga and can stack them. I say that because access to the rear seats isn’t brilliant either, with the front passenger seat not moving as far forward as would be helpful.

Abarth 595 Competizione boot space

As you would imagine given its slight dimensions, boot space is a meagre 185 litres with the seats up, but a much more useful 550 litres with them down. 

What’s it like on the road?

Let’s start with what is under the bonnet. The 2021 Abarth 595 Competizione is powered by a 1.4L turbo petrol engine that produces 132kW of power and 250Nm of torque. 

Power is sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission, which is awesome to operate. There is an automatic option dubbed “DuaLogic Competizione Transmission” on the spec sheet, but there shouldn’t be – it puts a smile on your face as you climb through the gears. Save yourself the $2,000.

Gases escape through an Abarth Dual Mode Record Monza Exhaust, which basically means it is always loud and sounds great. The sounds they’ve managed to produce from this 4-cylinder engine reminds me of some Australia’s Got Talent contestants – you really wouldn’t expect what’s in store, and then they start.

The engine itself is quite lively too. You do get a bit of turbo lag, but once it spools up, the 595 Competizione feels brisk. All up, the package will get you to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds, which is 0.5 of a second slower than the Hyundai i20 N, 0.2 of a second slower than a Ford Fiesta ST, but the same as the similarly priced VW Polo GTI.

All of the above have a fair bit more power than the little Abarth, with the i20N packing 150Kw, while both the Fiesta ST and Polo GTI have 147Kw. However, the difference isn’t more thanks to the 595 weighing around 200kg less.

There is plenty of stopping power as well, with Brembo brakes acting as the anchors when you need them.

In terms of ride and handling, the 595 Competizione is true to the Abarth ethos. Steering is sharp and has a good weight to it. Coupled with the lightweight we just discussed, it is quite agile.

However, the ride is on the firm side. Despite having the front and rear adaptive suspension with frequency selective damping, you’re going to feel whatever surface is underneath you. But that is in the spirit of the vehicle – this is made to be sporty. It is rally-inspired after all. If you are after something more plush, the Fiat 500 is an option.

If you are using the vehicle around town, as you can imagine, it is easy to park and manoeuvre. It is worth noting that there is no reversing camera, if that is a creature comfort you have come to rely on, but the parking sensors should do the trick.

Hang on, there is still $2,450 unaccounted for

This 2021 595 was also optioned with the Competizione Body Kit which costs, you guessed it, $2,450.

The verdict

While it may not be the world's most practical vehicle for a lot of use cases, it does make a fantastic city car given its slight dimensions.

And while $42,350 may seem a bit steep, you could potentially be happier in a base-spec Abarth 595 given there is no sunroof eating into headroom and you get height-adjustable seats. There is always the convertible option too.

Overall, though, this 2021 595 Competizione is a surprisingly speedy hot hatch. Not only that, it sounds fantastic and is a bunch of fun to drive – if that is what you are looking for, it fits the bill.

And again, if you’re taller, there’s always the convertible.

However, if you are after something that feels a bit more modern, you may want to look at the Hyundai i20N or the Volkswagen Polo GTI.

Check out our car reviews which compile multiple reviews into one, helping you save time when researching your next car. You might be surprised how much you could save by comparing car loans and car insurance.

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