To make the perfect Italian dish takes a mixture of loving ingredients, traditional cooking and a family recipe that’s been handed down through the ages, in many ways much the same as what has gone into creating the NZ new Abarth 595 Competizione.
Sure there’s no sun-dried tomatoes or extra virgin olive oil that’s been picked and cold-pressed by the hands of true Italian farmers. Nor has it spent hours simmering on the open flame of a cast-iron Aga but it has been developed using hand-picked automotive ‘ingredients’ and has a family heritage and sporting recipe that traces back over seven decades.
First and foremost, in the world of motorsport ‘less is more’ and the Abarth 595 Competizione takes this mantra to heart. Its footprint is only 3.657m long x a mere 1.627m wide and weight wise it sits a tagliatelli meal over 1,000kgs (1,045kg to be precise).
However, despite being small, just like throwing Pasta at a wall to ensure it’s al dente, the Italian performance car makers have certainly thrown plenty at it.
Under the tiny bonnet sits a powerful 1.4L turbocharged engine that was last seen in the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari from 2011. It generates 132kW and 250Nm, propelling the hot hatch from 0-100km/h in just 6.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 225km/h – that due to its compact size feels like Mach 3.
Then there’s the front and rear Adaptive Suspension with KONI Frequency Selective
Damping shocks on each corner, helping the Abarth 595 stick to the road like lasagne to a metal pan. And last, but by no means least, an Abarth Dual Mode Record Monza Exhaust system that’s louder than an opera and arguably more dramatic.
My review model came in Abarth Red, but there’s also a raft of other inspiring colours to opt for, maybe Modena Yellow lights your fire or Scorpione Black.
On the subject of ‘Scorpoines’, the Abarth comes with plenty. From the Abarth badging (front and rear, inside and out), to the wheels and even on the bright red engine rocker cover.
The interior is a mixture of fine leather and Alcantara encased in a plethora of hard plastics but the result is a tactile overkill, especially as EVERYTHING is within arms reach. Infotainment comes by way of UConnect on a 7-inch touchscreen, and the clever ‘sporty’ Italians have saved weight by not including a reversing camera (seriously, the 595 is the size of a Ravioli parcel) and thing like cruise control – you want to drive this Abarth don’t you?
Then there’s the gearbox. Aside from there being two models to choose from (the ‘c’ being convertible) you also get the option of manual or ‘ahem’ automatic transmission. The Dualogic Transmission (auto) transmission that came in the review model is an experience to behold, in fact it’s an event all by itself. Pushing ‘1’ on the centre console engages drive and from then on changing gear is a juggling act of ‘Cirque du Soleil’ proportions – yes I know that’s French/Canadian.
Anyway, if you drive the Abarth like a ‘normal’ auto, you will spend a lot of time ‘nodding’ at oncoming traffic as the each of the five gears take ‘Italian time’ to engage. For best results, you have to treat it like a manual and ease off the accelerator with each change. It sounds complicated and annoying and initially, it is, but once you get used to it, you feel like you are actually driving the sporty hatch and that’s what it’s all about. It also comes with Paddle Shifters, to fully enjoy the driving experience.
The Abarth 595 Competizione is a great little driver’s hatch. Yes it has its Italian quirks but that in all fairness that’s what makes this hatch so enjoyable. It’s nippy around town but could do with an extra gear on the long open roads, my advice is ‘take the long and winding route’ both you and the car will prefer it. Sports exhaust, KONI shocks, an enviable power to weight ratio and a seven-decade-old heritage, the Abarth 595 Competizione is one spicy meatball.