As the new entry level to the Abarth range, the 595 bridges the gap between the Fiat 500 on which it’s based and the more expensive Abarth Turismo.
Strictly speaking, it’s classed as a Micro car, ut with a $27,500 list price, a warmed-up turbo engine and other sporting enhancements, it’s not hard to imagine buyers shopping it against two similarly priced hot-shot Light cars, the grin-inducing Ford Fiesta ST and the VW Polo GTi.
The sporty Italian’s diminutive dimensions mean tighter city parking spots are easy to take advantage of, and parking sensors are standard to keep a rearward watch.
A turning radius a little larger than expected in a Micro car came as a surprise.
Steering and clutch are agreeably light and easy, while a press of the Sport button adds weight to the steering (though no more feel), sharpens throttle response and allows full engine torque in lower gears for more sporty driving.
Take to the twists and turns with enthusiasm and the 595, with its beefier Abarth-tuned and lowered suspension, recalibrated electric steering, plus 16-inch 45-series Continental rubber, confidently changes direction while feeling light and nimble on its feet.
However, the firm ride can turn a little thumpy over sharper-edged bumps and road and tyre noise can be intrusive, especially on coarse-chip surfaces.
Upgraded four-wheel disc brakes with red lacquered callipers offer efficient retardation and a positive pedal feel underfoot.
The 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine delivers claimed maximum outputs of 103kW and 206Nm, both lower than the Turismo and Competizione versions. The 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in 7.9 seconds, according to Abarth.
The standard five-speed manual box is agreeably smooth to shift and a better choice than the optional Dualogic auto, given recent experience of the latter’s dysfunctional nature in a Fiat 500. The engine delivers sprightly performance and feels quite flexible.
The front seats are quite well bolstered and comfortable. However, closely spaced pedals that are offset to the left, and a tilt-only steering column, make for an awkward driving experience.
It’s also easy to reach for the handbrake lever and instead grab the seat height adjuster, prominently mounted on the left of the driver’s seat base.
A key-operated locking fuel cap and tyre sealant kit in lieu of a spare wheel didn’t appeal either.