New Fiat 500 Abarth is ‘unhinged’

Fiat 500 Abarth. Photo: PA
Fiat 500 Abarth. Photo: PA
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Take one Fiat 500, add a crazy turbocharged engine, spicy bodykit and wait for the fireworks, writes Press Association motoring editor Matt Joy.

Fiat’s evergreen 500 has been turned into a fire-breathing hot hatch before by legendary firm Abarth, but the latest version is now a permanent addition to the range. Available in semi-sensible Turismo or 100 per cent barmy Competitzione guise tested here, the Abarth 500 is not for the faint of heart.

There’s a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol unit up front that offers a healthy 158bhp but more significantly 170lb.ft of torque. The exterior wears a seriously tough bodykit and gorgeous alloy wheel options, while there’s stiffer suspension and uprated brakes too. There’s some interesting touches inside too, such as the attractive metal-topped gearlever.

It’s hard not to love the Abarth 500’s looks, even though from some angles it is almost comically pumped up. From a rational point of view it has the proportions of a roller-skate, with a short wheelbase, big wheels and minimal ride height, but it just makes you want to get in and drive it.

Any notion that the standard 500 is a car ‘just for girls’ is dismissed in a flash when it’s turned into an Abarth. Those in the know recognise the badge and those that don’t are intrigued.

Drive the 595 in the manner it deserves and you’ll revel in the gloriously torquey engine, the hilariously raucous exhaust note and the way in which it dives into bends with limitless enthusiasm. It’s a car that works best when you chuck it about rather than use a delicate hand. Do so and it’s a complete riot, as well as remarkably quick.

Turn down the wick and it’s a little more like hard work. The great handling comes from the stiff suspension which means bumps are felt rather than heard, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

There’s actually quite a bit of competition at this £18k-plus price level, and on the one hand the 595 Competitzione is far from cheap. However, it does come with a lot of kit too; items like Xenon headlights and the glorious exhaust system are all standard. Go mad with the options list and you can break the £21k mark.

This car summed up in a single word: Unhinged!