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Fiat 500 Abarth is a racy hot hatchback with the sweet looks of the iconic city car - but a firm ride lets it down

The Fiat 500 Abarth (badged as Abarth 500) is a more powerful version of the chic Fiat 500 city car, offering a racy drive in a tiny package.

An aggressive bodykit, stiffer suspension and plenty of extra horsepower. It rivals the Ford Fiesta ST, MINI Cooper S and Peugeot 208 GTi and features a 1.4-litre petrol engine in various guises of tune. In 2016 the range received a facelift and most Abarth models received new model names (the 500 name was dropped in favour of 595, 595 Turismo, 595 Competizione and 695 Biposto) and improved power and eco credentials. The range now kicks off with the Abarth 595 with 140bhp, then there's the 595 Turismo with 162bhp, the 595 Competizione with 177bhp and the limited run and stripped out Biposto.

The Abarth 595 gets a leather steering wheel, parking sensors, Bluetooth, bucket seats, a metal gear shifter and metal pedals as standard.

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Abarth 595 1.4 T-Jet 140bhp

Engines, performance and drive

3.7

The Abarth is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, but it doesn't feel like it's lacking any power - when the turbo kicks in it feels pretty fast on the road, and it's a fun engine to drive with.

Abarth 595 Competizione review

The Abarth gets lower suspension and bigger brakes, meaning the ride is really firm. On a twisty road, however, it's a heap of fun - but the engine needs to be on boost before you can really get going, because when you change gear sometimes it takes far too long to get into the power band. Tyre and wind noise are very intrusive, but the tuned exhaust sounds great.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

3.5

The standard Abarth 595 has an official fuel consumption figure of 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 139g/km. It qualifies for insurance group 26, so expect a hefty premium, too. The Abarth 595 is very expensive for such a small car, but because of the limited number available, residual values are very good.

Interior, design and technology

3.6

The Abarth 595 might still be a Fiat 500 underneath, but thanks to the aggressive bodykit, go-faster stripes, big alloy wheels and Abarth's famous scorpion badges, it's hard to mistake it for the standard car.

Bucket seats, aluminium and rubber pedals, red stitching make the interior stand out too. The dash is similar to the standard 500 with the high-set gearstick, but the materials feel a bit too cheap for a car that costs this much more than the standard 500.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

2.3

The rear seats in the Abarth are very small. The roof is low, so headroom is poor, and the legroom is not suited to adults on any sort of long journey.

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The 185-litre boot is much smaller than that of the DS 3, which offers 285 litres and 980 litres with the rear seats down. In fact, folding rear seats are only available as an option on the Abarth, and even then it can only manage 550 litres.

However, the Abarth's compact dimensions mean it's easy to manoeuvre and park (although the bigger wheels and heavier steering mean it's not as good as the normal 500).

Reliability and Safety

2.9

The Fiat 500 has a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, and the Abarth is pretty much identical, so it should be just as safe. It comes with decent safety kit, too, with hill-hold assist and Torque Transfer Control (TTC), which is designed to improve power delivery to the front wheels on corners. There's driver, passenger, side, curtain and knee airbags, too.

While Abarth didn't rank by itself in the 2018 Driver Power survey, Fiat finished 23rd out of 26, ahead of Renault, Citroen and Dacia. There is a dedicated Abarth dealer network on hand to help solve any issues that do arise. The interior feels pretty cheap, however, and for a car that costs this much we would expect better quality.

Last updated: 
5 Jun, 2018