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Driven: Fiat Abarth 595 Competizione

The Abarth 595 Competizione is fundamentally the same 500 Abarth Esseesse that we'd driven last April, just that this time around, it's wrapped in sportier packaging.

The 595 Competizione retains the familiar naughty-cute look of the 500 Abarth, sitting low and pretty with all those bad-ass scorpion badges all around, in as sporty a stance as it gets on those gorgeous 17-inch rims wrapped in 205/40 Pirelli P Zero Neros. The interior has a beefier feel to it as well, with most of its black bits made up of hard plastic, with minimal use of leather and chrome inserts in places. The chunky steering wheel, the high-floating dash with the all-digital readouts, as well as the turbo boost gauge, all are a familiar sight, from the Esseesse. The only thing missing from the older car is the gear lever which has now given way to four gear... buttons. As far as cabin space is concerned, there’s a good amount of room for the passengers seated in the sporty Abarth Corsa seats up front, but the bench behind is best left for light luggage. As before, the Abarth feels well put-together and would feel right up there with the best if not for some plastic bits, like the air-con controls, which felt a bit flimsy.

See more pictures of the Abarth 595 Competizione

Fiat’s performance division has thrown in the brilliant 1.4-litre T-Jet engine which pumps out 158bhp and 230 Newtons of life into the 595 Competizione, and mated it to a five-speed automated manual gearbox. Like before, there are two driving modes – Normal and Sport. In Normal mode, the 595 responds in a very relaxed manner. The throttle is not very responsive to inputs, and you’ll have to dial in a bit more throttle than you usually would to set off. Then there’s the steering, which is overly light, and the five-speeder, which hesitates to shift cogs every time, can be quite frustrating while making your way through traffic. Shifts aren’t smooth in Auto mode, and it’s best to manually employ the paddle shifters behind the wheel on this one. Thankfully, there’s a button which reads ‘Sport’ on the dash, which takes care of all these shortcomings. Sport mode is where you get the feeling that you're driving a hot hatch. The steering tightens up, the calm-looking display has now changed layout to now give you tacho and throttle input level readouts, the engine shows eagerness to be revved, the gearbox responds quicker, holds on to gears longer, and there’s a more potent wail that emanates from the chrome-tipped exhaust as you near the 6,500rpm redline. In Sport, it was a matter of 10.3 seconds before the 595 hit 100kph from standstill. This tiny hatch changes direction with utmost ease. Thanks to its short wheelbase and grippy tyres, it manages to hold its line very well at any speed, and stops on a dime.

The ride is exactly as you would imagine a car named the Competizione to have – it’s super-stiff, and the low-profile tyres don’t help matters at all. This means that the low-speed ride is a bit of a pain in the neck, but it gets better as you pick up pace. You may see these as shortcomings, but this is just what it’s supposed to possess. It’s what this car was meant to be. This hatchback isn’t meant to ferry a family of four in comfort or be economical. The 595 Competizione is all about fun and excitement, satisfying the hunger of pure driving enthusiasts and that it does to an extent, not in a mental way, but it still does. It’s just that the asking price of ?29.85 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which puts the Abarth 595 well into Mini Cooper territory, may be a little too much for most to digest.

The numbers
4cyl, 1,368cc, turbocharged petrol, 5A, 1,155kg, Top Speed: 210kph (claimed), 0-100kph: 10.3s, 30-50kph: 2.23s, 50-70kph: 1.90s city: 9.1kpl; highway: 13kpl

Price: ?29.85 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Verdict: Looks great and oozes attitude. Sadly, not the best when considering hot hatch performance. As before, price may be an issue.

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