2017 Fiat Abarth Convertible

Aims to restore the balance of hot hatches

"The Abarth 595 is the neighboring rival to the MINI Cooper S."

"Tiny hot hatch isn't low-cost, but it sure is fast and fun!" said Issam.

"Fitting a rocket to the Fiat 500."

The 595 Abarth is the development of an iconic model with the scorpion badge: more powerful engines, even richer standard equipment and plenty of product innovations, some of which are commonly reserved to higher category cars.

Facelifted in 2016, the Abarth 595 comes with a slightly changed body kit that helps more air get to the engine. The rest of the refresh is even more understated with mostly small interior and high-tech updates.

I acquired the 2017 Fiat Abarth 595 from the recently appointed distributor in Lebanon, Gargour Automotive, for a long weekend. How was the drive?

Driving impressions
First thing that I noticed is that the car has an automatic gearbox but feels like a manual one without the clutch pedal. Yes, believe it or not. The other thing that I noticed is when I tried to adjust my driving position, such as the seat and the steering wheel, it felt a bit awkward. There's a height adjustment on the steering wheel, but it can't be brought closer to you. Even the seat itself and the driving position are higher than the steering wheel. Another thing that might take some time to get used to are the electric window buttons that are located in the center, next to the gear, rather than on the door.

Whenever I'm at high speeds the 595 quickly defaults to understeer if you overstep the limits. The direct steering combines with the stiff chassis to provide a truly full-on driving experience. Changes of course are lightning fast and the entire car feels more determined than just a Fiat 500 with an Abarth badge. If it's the excitement of driving you're after, this is your toy!

One of the biggest innovations is the increased power of the 1.4 T-jet engine installed on the 595 and 595 Turismo versions. The first delivers 145 horsepower and 206 Nm of peak torque, while the second reaches 165 horsepower and 230 Nm. What is more, the latter is fitted with a Garrett turbine. On the other hand, 595 Competizione with its 180 horsepower is the car for drivers who crave racing adrenaline in terms of both performance and technical features.

Verdict
The 595 Abarth also comes in three flavors - the basic 595, a slightly more luxurious 595 Turismo and the 595 Competizione, which is mostly about driving for fun. While it isn't the fastest or the finest driving small hot hatch in the market, the Abarth 595 comes with big and charming character - the point is that it makes a big noise and the point that is it feels like an authentic sports car in a Matchbox-style set. You can always pass by your nearest dealer and ask for your test drive.

Rivals: MINI Cooper S, Ford Fiesta ST, Peugeot 208 GTi
Pros: Gorgeous exterior look, pleasant interior cabin, fun to drive, pretty fast
Cons: Stiff ride, small rear seats, consumes a lot of fuel when pushed hard, driving position
one word: speedy
4 stars

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