Our adventures (in a car, at least) always start from the gas station – the fuel tank is never full and ends up emptying too quickly. On one hand, it is a bit of a subtle confirmation that we have milled a good amount of kilometers, on the other hand the obvious and redundant reminder that we will never grow up. But it does not matter, we don’t care about our Peter Pans syndrome, because smiles and funny situations are the most beautiful collateral effect in the world. And so, every self-respecting shooting day, I already find myself at the gas station before 6 o’clock, with the 98-octane pump stuck in the tank of the new Abarth 595 Competizione, and as I look for Jay’s arrival (the photographer), I can feel we are going to start our special working day. We load the photographic equipment in the small trunk and fit the remaining backpacks on the rear seats, immediately noting that as a holiday car the 595 Competizione will not win the prize as the best choice. But we won’t talk about vacation, practicality and boring stuff – if you intend to buy such an Abarth, more likely you’re going to fill your days with screaming and assassinating moments on some mountain roads, nothing else. Does that seem a little bit to you?
The tested model is the long-awaited restyling, easily recognizable for a new front grille, the new headlight design (especially at the rear) and some upgrades in the passenger compartment too, now a little less plasticky than before. The engine remains the turbocharged 1.4 4-cylinder, but in the Competizione version it reaches 180 horsepower, bringing with it a significantly improved delivery and an almost non-existent turbo lag. But we will talk about this later, as we are heading toward the motorway for the Ligurian hinterland. We thought there was not a better place to put the little Italian to the test, than a winding narrow road, rich with corners, but also where to give free vent to the tremendous 4-cylinder turbo.
The Scoglina Pass is an Apennine strip that reaches 1,000m in height, but is great for almost no traffic and the type of curves that it offers: from wide bends to narrow hairpins. “Sport” mode has to be pushed as soon as you enter in the car, even to increase the voice to the most crazy exhaust system ever heard on a hot-hatch – the Record Monza is literally out of control and exits from the four tailpipes at the back like a boom that seems to anticipate the passage of a Maserati – no joke. Moving the car slow it emits a profound and low sound as the loud scream of some cave bear, but as soon as you push the throttle it turns up and become more and more acute, almost deafening, until it gets into your brain and make sure you can’t but ask for more decibels like these. It adds a lot of drama to the acceleration phase, the drive is immediately intensified and inevitably I start to analyze the first mechanical feedbacks of the Competizione.
The chassis is rigid and the car looks well grounded, traction starting from standstill is excellent and as mentioned, the delay due to the single turbo is much less marked than before – after a short fraction of a second, the 250Nm of torque come into play (at 3,000 rpm) and push you to the seat. The right hand leaves for a moment the steering wheel and triggers the following gear and thanks to a perfect synchrony with the pedals, you are again in the “10 and 10” position, trying to cross that grip limit that will not disappoint you or tries to kill you as you head for a series of tight corners.
Pulling the 595 down for some hairpin is not immediate, especially if done at noticeable speeds, but once you get the right confidence you finally realize that the grip on the asphalt is way better than on the previous model. If you just did not sit up on the car, because of the Sabelt carbon-fiber seats … – really nice and containable, but mounted too high, ending up not only to make the driving position difficult but to filter badly the valuable feedbacks that they should transmit to your back. An extra feature that you pay for and which absolutely needs a proper adjustment through brackets that you can find online or in any specific store.
Leaving this behind, I find myself playing with the 5-speed manual gearbox as a baby with a new set of molds on the beach, the pedals are soft and the mechanical self-locking differential prevents the nose from widening too muh, and I must confess that approaching some hairpin I never used the handbrake lever, while preferring to widen and flat-out on the gas rather than playing with the balancing of the weights. Minimal understeer and opposite behavior to that of another little bomb, the Ford Fiesta ST (tested a few months earlier), but a soundtrack that accompanies the 595 in perfection, especially in the most intense driving moments, keeping the concentration high and making justice to a mountain slalom that as todays office is not bad at all.
The first hours of driving pass and in the blink of an eye we reach Santo Stefano d’Aveto and enter an apparently untouched area, a torbid road that should have brought us to the Tomarlo Pass, but in typical ACM style has made us ending up in an unspecified natural reserve are in West Emilia. Not bad, as the traffic was virtually absent and the optimal road conditions put the end to our fuel left. After a fast lunch break and some photos in the woods, we set the satellite navigator for what represents the last leg of today, where we will also raise the drone for some really scenographic shot in direction of Lake Brugneto. Now we can drive without the frequent stops needed by our photographer and I can concentrate on the improvements that Abarth has developed on the new 595 Competizione.
It is impossible not to appreciate the dual nature of a small, very small sports car which is able to give so much fun and, above all, involvement as a way more expensive supercar: playful and livable in urban centers, becomes a little Tasmanian devil that really asks to hit the “Sport” button and to live not under the 3,000/3,500 revs, so that you can take advantage of every single one of its 180 horses available. Weighing just 1,110kg it shows a great handling and also a better balancing and a distribution of the weights as far as the ideal torque delivered in order not to ruin that appreciable fluidity. Remarkable 0-100 kh in 6.7 seconds and even more absurd, given its size, the top speed of 225 per hour!