Better than a Kia pro_cee'd GT?
When CarAdvice offered me one of their cars for a week, I gladly took on the Abarth 595.
Although I’m a fan of compact cars, the Fiat (and Abarth) range is something I’ve overlooked. I think it’s because I had a Fiat Freemont hire car once, and really struggled to find anything I liked about it. I wasn’t expecting amazing things from the little 595 then.
Luckily, I was wrong. My first impression when given the keys was that it was cute. There’s nothing I could fault on the exterior.
Being a three-door hatch gives the car a naturally sporty look, while the Passion Red paint accompanied by white ‘Abarth’ stripe decals down the sides just screams that it's a little car that wants to be taken seriously. The interior told a different story.
Inside the car, you immediately notice style takes precedence over function. The bright-red theme didn’t stop at the exterior – a glossy red panel stretches the width of the cabin for a look reminiscent of a fancy Italian coffee machine.
The digital speedo has a fantastic animated display when switching between standard and sport modes. The speedo numbers are large and clear to read when compared to the similar cluster on my Kia pro_cee’d GT, but the separate boost gauge sits awkwardly on the top-left of the dash.
Trying to find a comfortable seating position proved difficult. The height adjustment tilts the driver into the steering wheel, and the backrest adjustment provides very little support for your neck or head. As for the slender seat base? Definitely not designed for my figure. Note to self – cut down on pasta.
As a solo commuter, I seldom find myself with passengers, but I did put the Abarth to the test. While the car can provide seating for four, by the time you have your bag and essentials on board it becomes an intimate space for two.
Adults in the rear will struggle for leg room and will need to be quite the contortionist when entering and exiting the little three-door. Surprisingly, the boot was able to hold a couple of large overnight duffle bags.
Despite all this, driving the car was the most rewarding part. I had the opportunity to open up the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine on the roads of the Yarra Valley – and boy, it did not disappoint. I couldn’t help but smile every time I took off. Sport mode definitely holds its end of the deal, and I wouldn’t recommend driving without it. Normal mode feels bland and sluggish; you’ll definitely notice the difference.
Because the car is so light, you really don’t realise how fast you are going. The lack of cruise control almost got me into trouble going past an unmarked mobile speed camera sneakily placed on the side of the road on one of Victoria’s notorious long-weekend busts! Luckily, I got through unscathed.
For a little car, it has a lot of character. Despite the lack of luxurious features, the engine and sporty looks are enough to win you over.
I'm no stranger to European cars. My Kia is straight outta Slovakia, and has indicator stalks on the wrong side. But this little beast is so European, driving it is like learning a different language.
Will I be trading my Kia? Probably not. This is a proper Italian car. I can understand driving this car around the cobblestone streets of Rome, but definitely not for long, comfortable trips around Victoria.
Upon returning the office, I was able to take the top-spec 595 Abarth Competizione for a drive, and there have definitely been some improvements.
Above: Mel's daily driver is a Kia pro_cee'd GT. Would she swap it for the Abarth? Nope!
If you’re considering the Abarth 595 as your next car, definitely opt for the MY18 model. You get daytime running lights, a touchscreen infotainment system, navigation and much nicer Alcantara and carbon-look cabin.