R C purchased this Abarth 595 new with additional options for $34,600 (including all on-road costs). R C would buy this car again because: “Would I buy it again? Without a doubt. If I wanted practicality or a car that makes logical sense, I would have bought something else. If I wanted something unique that puts a smile on my face every time I get behind the wheel? Yes.”
Italian cars cop a pretty bad rap, but I’m happy to report that I have had next to no issues with my little Abarth (touch wood). The Fiat platform dates back to 2008 with these cars, and although there have been quite a few models over that time, there’s been minimal changes to the engine and drivetrain – it’s a pretty reliable package.
Parts are expensive; find a reputable, independent Alfa/Fiat specialist, and you’ll be fine.
Although there’s almost nothing practical about this car, you can surprisingly fit a decent amount into the boot when you fold the seats down. Even with the seats up, the boot is double the size of a Mini Cooper. The back seat is cramped, but if you wanted to, you could fit two adults. Two forward-facing child seats are also no issue.
The three-year warranty is limited by today’s standards (should be five).
The purchase experience was surprisingly good, although buying the car off the showroom floor probably contributed to that.
At the time, it was probably expensive for what it is when you start comparing it to similar cars in the segment. Features are minimal – there’s no reverse camera or cruise control. The stock infotainment system is rubbish (since replaced with an aftermarket version). There are none of the often-standard safety features like blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist etc.
However, strangely, all of this makes the car more appealing to me. I can’t say I miss any of the above things when I get behind the wheel. They certainly don’t diminish the smile I get every time I drive the car.
Despite being expensive if you compare, I still see some value in the Abarth. For a car that weighs just over 1000kg, it has almost 200hp. It comes standard with Koni shocks and Brembo brakes. It has carbon fibre Sabelt seats (worth upwards of $6K if purchased later). The steering wheel is emblazoned with real carbon fibre (not the fake stuff you find on most cars under $100K) and Alcantara. It also comes with a Monza exhaust that has to be the best sounding on the market.
Despite dating back to 2008, the interior has dated pretty well in terms of design, and the updated steering wheel on the Series 4 with its Alcantara and carbon bits is lovely. The digital dash is also a highlight, especially when you flick it from normal mode into sports mode. One of the best features for me are the optional carbon-backed Sabelt seats – not only do they look fantastic and make the interior, but they also feel like they belong in a car that’s worth four times as much as the Abarth.
Finally, the noise – the Monza exhaust has to be one of the best sounding systems on the market – it’s hard to believe a 1.4L can sound this good. It’s intoxicating and makes you want to open it up every time you go for a drive.
As for the negatives, the driving position is…high! It really takes some getting used to. I’ve been toying with the idea of installing seat lowering brackets. Inside, there’s hard, black plastic everywhere that does feel cheap. The indicators are horrible and have a mind of their own. The Brembo brakes squeal like crazy. Finally, despite being a microcar, the turning circle is terrible.
Performance is always subjective, but for a 1.4L turbo, it’s very nippy. Weighing just over a tonne helps as well. The biggest downside is the lack of a 6th gear – the 5-speed manual gearbox is excellent but could use that extra gear, especially on the freeway. There’s turbo lag at low revs, but that’s all part of the fun.
I have always used premium 98 RON fuel and average around 9 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres. It is sometimes worse depending on how heavy your foot is (hint: it wants to be heavy all the time). Overall, it’s a relatively cheap car to run.
Technology is minimal, so this Abarth isn’t for you if you want the latest mod cons. There’s not even a reverse camera, and my year model didn’t come with Apple Carplay or Android Auto (though this has since been added as a standard feature).
Ride comfort – it’s not comfortable. The ride is very firm, but this adds to the fun factor for me. The H&R lowering springs I’ve installed also don’t help at all, but it doesn’t crash or feel harsh despite this.
The advantage of the firm ride is the handling – it’s fantastic, and you can throw it around corners as if it’s sitting on rails. The wheelbase is so short that you can throw it into oversteer at will. The brakes, although they squeal like mad, are excellent.