Abarth's finally in town, with the recently-launched Fiat Abarth 595 Competizione, and aims to create a nice market for itself with this potent little hatchback. But long before the 2015 model, there were the original Fiat 500 Abarth versions from the 1960s that set the dice rolling for the company all the way back then.
In this special ‘then and now' story, we take a quick look back at the classic Abarth 595, touch upon its remarkable heritage, and travel to the current day Competizione. More than 500 things would have changed since then, obviously, but we've tried to keep the tale concise for you.
The man behind the iconic performance division of Fiat was Karl Abarth, who had a remarkable career in the auto industry. He was five-time European Motorcycle Champion in the 1930s. Abarth became known for producing high-performance exhaust systems, and it was during this time that he designed and developed his first unit.
The Fiat 500 Abarth models introduced Italy to the addictive concept of tuning cars to personal specification, with a long list of accessories and options available. Similar to our many cosmetically modded cars in India, Italy too, saw a period of time when FIat 500 D cars would ‘mysteriously' don Abarth accessories, but it was all show without Abarth's characteristic go.
Picture credit: Boogerballs
The original Fiat Abarth 595 had a big bore cylinder block which hiked displacement from 499cc to 593cc. Other modifications included higher compression pistons, redesigned inlet ports, Abarth valve covers and air filter, and a special camshaft, exhaust system, and a bigger carburetor.
These impressive Abarth mods saw power rise from 22 bhp to 30 bhp, which might not sound like much, but weigh in the little 595's mass of only around 500 kilograms, and you'll see why these things went much faster than you would first imagine. It was one of the first true hot hatches in the world, with a top speed of over 120 km/h!
Pan to present day, and the just-introduced Fiat Abarth 595 Competizione. The car now features a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine with peak power of 160 bhp at 5000 rpm. Torque is impressive too with 230 Nm at 3000 rpm. However, it weighs just over a ton now, practically double the weight of the original, but don't forget it's got a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
The Competizione will be available with an AMT here - there's also a 5-speed manual in other countries, and the consensus is that it needs to come to India too, since the automated box is a bit lazy with its shifting. However, Copaf front suspension and Koni rear sport suspension means this car will take corners like it's on rails, keeping in tune with the original's point-and-go character.
Today's Abarth 595 Competizione will set you back an arm and a leg, more than INR 30 lakh to get one these babies on the road. And if you're in the classic car market for an original Fiat Abarth 595, they now retail for around 45,000 pounds sterling (around INR 45 lakh) in the UK. Minus customs, of course. Owning a valuable piece of automotive history isn't cheap, and is especially true of these beautiful little Italian performance and design icons, both in yesterday's and today's avatars.