Abarth 595 Competizione 2022 (car review)
LIKE the scorpion, the emblematic creature of Abarth and the man behind it, the tiny 595 Competizione 2022 is full of venom. Quart power has always been the essence of the Abarth 500, but this year’s version doubles its racing pedigree.
In the 1960s, the term “Turismo Competizione” was attached to the 850 TC, referring to the explicit aim of Abarth’s relationship with Fiat to take unassuming road cars and give them racing credentials, and the fact that that’s exactly what the 850 was – a pumped-up Fiat 600D.
The motif survived when Abarth resurfaced 18 years ago, then with a tuned Fiat 500. When the Turismo Competizione terminology returned in 2016, the labels were used separately, referring to individual variants of 595.
The Turismo was for style and the Competizione brought racing to public roads. For 2022, two things have happened. First, the latter is the only variant available in Australia (either as a hardtop or retractable soft top).
The car that Abarth sent also leans a little more towards the weekend track car, keeping the hatchette’s hottest roads raw and simple, but significantly more performance-focused, while actively displaying the motorsport heritage of the brand.
It’s as compact a car as possible, with only 1,045 kg on the scale. With a Garrett GT 1446 turbo attached to the 1.4-litre 4-cylinder engine, it produces 132 kW and 250 Nm. These figures give a power-to-weight ratio of 123.6 kW/tonne.
For those wondering, this is firmly in Golf GTI and WRX territory. To sweeten the deal, a proper 5-speed manual gearbox.
To harness the engine performance of the Competizione, Abarth used its own mechanical limited-slip differential, frequency-selective damping dampers from Koni and big Brembo calipers with cross-drilled and vented rotors.
The beautiful “Rally Blue” matt paintwork, which pays homage to the old Abarth 131 Rally, calls on Abarth’s racing history.
The Record Monza exhaust, a dual-mode system, is designed to sing an ode to Carlo Abarth and his 1960s Monoposto da Record endurance racer.
The newly designed Monte Carlo wheels also nod to the eight-time WRC champion Lancia Delta Integrale. Along with the body kit and flared guards, the rally-inspired theme makes the Competizione look as menacing as anything so small.
Unleashing this hungry, history-laden little car on the road is ridiculously fun, with the drama starting the moment you switch on the ignition.
At idle and low revs, especially with the valves wide open in “Scorpion” mode, the gruff growl of a car with three times the presence emanates from all four pipes.
As you wind it up, the timeless mix of deep exhaust rumble and turbo whine sets in, urging you to hit it. At full throttle, the buzz turns into a higher-pitched gritty whine, often culminating in a burp or backfire when you release the throttle.
You can’t get enough of the variety of sounds the exhaust system spits out. The Competizione should be left in Scorpion mode, not only for better sound, but because there’s no point in having lighter steering, less throttle response and less boost in this car.
On a public road, the Competizione looks more like a tuner car housing illegal modifications, and it should be enjoyed as such. This car, if not bought for weekend track days, is made for midnight races through the hills.
Alternatively, it’s good for an afternoon of thrash along country roads. In these environments, a lot of things happen. And quickly. The Competizione is very lively. In the manual, the 0-100km/h is sorted in 6.7 seconds.
It’s totally achievable with the user-friendly gearbox. The shifts feel cushioned enough to methodically insert each one, but clumsy enough, with short throws, to make gearing easy and proper.
Descending a straight, you’re not exactly pushed back into your seat like a supercar, but you’re on boost so early that the passionate acceleration is still a shock and a thrill.
It’s super torquey and with minimal lag, it’s the turns, turns and crests that make riding the most fun.
The Competizione has the quality to let you corner at really reckless speeds, but still ensure your survival with huge grip and a completely flat stance.
Be warned, though, because if you continue in this daredevil fashion, you’ll encounter landmines. You see, there’s no variation in suspension damping, or if there is, it’s unnoticeable. It’s hard as a stone all the time.
While it keeps you flat and in control at high speeds in a fast corner, it will respond to all the bumps and bobs by jumping quite erratically, especially at the rear. Pushing the 595 is a bit like riding a mousetrap.
All is well if he is undisturbed, until the slightest touch sends him slamming into the air. Linking adjacent corners in a chicane can be tricky at first due to laziness in the steering as well.
Delay can ruin the line you may have taken in your mind. Blasting a hairpin will also cause a lot of steering torque, and only you can pull it off. If you want to avoid all the hassle, you can roll back at the eleventh hour by hitting the Brembo brakes.
But you’d be dumber to do so. The fact that the Competizione goes from predictable to nervous in an instant isn’t a bad thing. Exceptional capability combined with wild demeanor in a car delivers the most thrilling driving experience possible.
It would be more concerning if the Competizione didn’t have cement shocks or require you to work hard for proper execution. With that in mind, you’re not looking for practicality inside the 595 either.
It’s a car with racing seats, a boost gauge big enough to be a radio telescope, and Alcantara strewn across the dash and racing steering wheel. There’s also a brushed silver dome button and a 7.0-inch circular dash that glows deep red in Scorpion mode.
Oh, and there’s no console. It’s clear that the focus is on driving rather than transporting. If practicality is your thing, the boot is big enough to fit a travel bag or two.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wired, as is the 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen from previous models. The air conditioning is excellent and the sound system is reasonable.
Beyond that, the Competizione is practical in the same way the original Fiat 500 was designed – so small a few guys might pick it up to change a wheel, and a single arm span is enough to reach things at the back.
Current drive-in price for the 595 Competizione is $39,812. That’s really fair, especially considering that some people spend upwards of $30,000 on a new jet ski. The 595 is simply the terrestrial alternative.
You could summarize the Competizione like this; it’s a riotous little thing, constantly encouraging you to take a step back and making sure everything is clear in front of you. You may be drawn into a workout, however exciting.
It’s as impractical as it gets, as pleasing to the eye as a gemstone, and delivers one of the purest engines money can buy. You can find out more on the Abarth (Fiat) website. We recommend shopping around for a good deal, or you can visit PriceMyCar for the best price.
Our test vehicle was provided by Fiat Abarth Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Abarth 595 Competizione, contact your local Abarth dealer.