One of our family cars for many years was a ‘Fiat 500 by Gucci’ convertible.
It was a brilliant little Italian machine to buzz around in and park in tiny spots that others simply could not fit into.
It had the Gucci trademark green/red/green stripes and people admired it wherever we stopped.
So, it was great to spend a week in the sporting cousin of our 500, the Abarth 595 Competizione.
Abarth is the name used for the high-performance variants of the Fiat 500 range.
Abarth 595 Competizione three-door is priced from $34,250.
There’s also a convertible version priced from $37,250.
Based on the Fiat 500, but with quite a few styling changes to give it a sportier look, the Abarth has a very individual look.
It has a standout front area, body-coloured at the top and blacked out in the lower parts, with large side sills and black at the rear that follow the front cues.
Our test car had matte blue paint, an extra cost option.
Though it’s something out of the ordinary, it does look to the uninformed that the car has been sitting out in the strong Aussie sunshine for too many years.
The hot Italian machine has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support and digital radio.
We enjoyed the sound output from the audio system, but turned it off most of the time to listen to the excellent sounds produced by the engine.
The Abarth 595 has ABS and stability control to help drivers to stay out of trouble.
It has seven airbags, two IsoFix child seat mount points, rear parking sensors and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The latter particularly useful in a sports hatch when correct pressures at all four corners as important if you want to fang the Abarth 595 hard.
Ahh! This is why you buy an Abarth 595 Competizione – to drive it hard and fast.
It’s a genuine Italian sports machine not simply a hot hatch.
Power comes from a turbo-petrol 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 132kW at 5500 rpm and 250Nm of torque from 3000 rpm.
And it has a five-speed manual gearbox at a time when almost all manuals are six-speed units.
This is probably another throwback to its Fiat 500 origins and there simply wasn’t a suitable six-speeder.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.8L/100km. It takes premium unleaded and has a 35-litre tank.
The cabin has a 7.0-inch multifunction display, leather upholstery, carbon-fibre trim and sports pedals.
It has an Abarth logo on the centre of the steering wheel.
There’s black just about everywhere including on the dash and the gear lever housing.
It sounds great, talks to you through the steering wheel and holds the road at speeds that may not seem possible to those who don’t understand well-sorted Italian suspension.
Even around town and in the suburbs, you can have fun listening to the sound of the engine, banging up and down through the gears and accelerating hard away from the lights.
The engine is a little slow to pick up speed if it’s running below about 2000 revs, but once you get it beyond that point it really sings along with plenty of entertaining sporting sounds.
But to get the full enjoyment from it you have to take it to the country.
We had a ball thumping it around bends on the roads in the hinterland behind our base on the Gold Coast.
On the open roads on the far side of the hills its cruises well, but does get a bit tiring if you’re doing a long trip.
Frankly passengers may not appreciate it because the ride is on the firm side.
You do sit rather high in the cabin as this is a stubby car and low front seats would steal too much space from those sitting in the back.
It’s not too bad for those sitting behind a passenger in the front, but anyone behind a tall driver may find they are a bit cramped for space.
The Abarth 595 Competizione is not a car for everyone, but for those who like to get the best from a sports car it must sit very high on the list of machines to be considered.
It looks good, goes like a rocket if you are prepared to work it to its full potential and you will go everywhere with a smile on your face.
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