Another year, another raft of tweaks to the perennial Abarth 595, commemorating the marque’s 70th anniversary.
Headlining the 2019 update is the resurrection of the top-of-the-range Esseesse model. We first saw the badge in 2009 applied to what was, in effect, a factory tuning pack for the cooking Abarth 500, which upped the power and tightened the handling. The Esseesse name itself is tribute to the most bonkers Abarth road cars of the 1960s, that were badged SS.
The 2019 Abarth 595 Esseesse uses a 180hp version of Fiat’s 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged T-Jet engine that now breathes better thanks to a ‘by BMC’ air filter and an Akrapovic exhaust. Which should sound rather fruity.
More interesting, though, is what’s been bolted in between the front wheels: a proper, mechanical limited-slip-differential. The Abarth 595 isn’t the keenest-handling of hot hatches, but the LSD should improve matters massively, allowing you to turn harder and get on the power earlier.
At the back there’s new Koni dampers, which provide better movement control. And 17-inch Supersport wheels, finished in white, hide a set of Brembo brakes with red calipers.
Inside, you get Sabelt bucket seats with carbonfibre shells on the back and tilt handles like a race car’s cut-off switches. There are carbon pedals, Fiat’s UConnect infotainment system and lots of 70th Anniversary badges, as well.
The 595 Esseesse isn’t exactly cheap at £25,295 for the hatchback and £27,295 for the open-top 595C. Which is an awful lot of money for a car that’s over a decade old, especially when you consider that the Mini JCW is less that 700 quid more and the Ford Fiesta ST is six grand less. And, as a driving machine, both are infinitely preferable.
But neither is as charismatic as the Abarth 595, and that’s why you buy one.
By Graham King