Ah, the Abarth 595. It’s small and good-looking – two common ingredients that make a vehicle model popular among Filipino car buyers. But, this Italian hatchback isn’t any ordinary minute city car you see on our roads. It’s rare and a bit exotic, plus it hides something underneath the hood that would probably shock the bejesus out of you, in a good way.
With that said, the 595’s looks alone might pique your interest, and so do me. When Petromax Enterprise, importer of Alfa Romeo and Abarth in the Philippines, introduced its first samples of cars last year, the 595 immediately caught my attention. Well, aside from the Alfa Romeo Giulia that I’ve driven before, but I digress.
After a full good week with the 595, there are things that can’t be left unsaid. I can give you several things to hate in this Italian hatchback, and a few reasons why I’d buy one someday.
Whether you’re the driver or the front passenger, the experience inside the Abarth 595 was akin to when my uncle gave me an unwarranted joyride in his newly-built “race car.”
Lowered suspension, Koni dampers, and 17-inch alloys were a shaky combination, literally, firm even when not in Sport mode. The Abarth bowed down against the unforgiving EDSA and I was really careful driving the media unit around the city. Outside noise isolation needed a lot of improvement, too.
Good luck bringing passengers along
The Abarth 595 is a two-door four-seater, with emphasis on four. The rear cabin could accommodate me, sure, but take note that I only stand at 5’6”. Even with my short stature, only two inches of knee room was left when I'm in my comfortable seating posture.
Good thing ingress and egress were fairly easy using the one-pull lever at the shoulder of the front seats, plus head-room was quite massive, thanks to that odd shape. The trunk space was expected but height was limited due to the angled tailgate.
Okay, maybe throwback is an exaggeration, but the 595 has small touchscreen infotainment with a resolution that only trumps over the first generation of phones with colored displays. Nevertheless, smartphone integration was still a cinch and the sound from the speakers delighted the music lover in me.
Lighting equipment was okay, with HID projectors dealing with darkness at night. Not too shabby. In daylight, however, you’ll have to make do with halogen daytime running lights. Plus, all controls were manual and there’s no push-start ignition, keyless entry, power-folding side mirrors, and telescopic steering wheel adjustment – things that are pretty much expected at this car’s price point.
More illogical quirks
Call it nitpicking or just downright honesty, there are a few more things in the Abarth 595 that irked me. Refueling would mean that you’ll have to step out of the vehicle because only the ignition key can open the fuel cap. Worse, the fuel tank is only 45 Liters, so you’ll have to do this extra step more frequently.
Seat adjustment was also manual, with the adjusters located at the driver’s right-hand side. The seat-height adjuster was shaped like a second parking brake lever and the driving position was a tad too high.
Lastly, the Abarth 595 chose form over function with its side mirrors, resulting in a small and visually-impeding shape. That added to more reasons for me to be careful driving this car.
But why would I buy one?
Considering all the things I’ve mentioned here and with all the options available in the market at its almost P3-million price point, why am I considering to buy the Abarth 595? Simple – it’s a toy car.
The 595 base has a 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine under its hood, producing 143 hp and 206 Nm, sent to the front wheels via a short-throw 5-speed manual gearbox. Translation? Pure driving fun.
Pressing the Sport button instantly encourages driving madness, spearheaded by the change in the graphics shown on the instrument cluster. A light prod on the accelerator produces an instantaneous reaction from the engine, even before the turbocharger kicking in. The wide range of revs means freedom for you to push the car harder, matched with a deep, aurally-pleasing exhaust note. The firm suspension setup, on the other hand, is meant to attack corners carelessly.
The Abarth 595 may have left me not-so-good impressions in terms of creature comfort and technology, but there’s one thing that stood out after returning the media unit back to Petromax – I miss driving this car. I miss zipping through unsuspecting normies on the road while getting all the smiles as if I'm sporting an alien fashion sense. Simply put, the experience was very addicting and I love it.
It isn’t meant to be a first car, not even a second or a third one. Its practicality is limited to what you’ll use it for, and quite frankly, that should be on a track or on a private road where you can feel the joy and fun of driving a pocket rocket.
The 595 is a car that knows who its buyers are. You have all the reasons to not be that person, as I have mine in buying one. Someday.