How can a car which is more than a decade old still be one of the best in its segment? The 595 essesse, newly revised for Abarth’s 70th anniversary one year ahead of its replacement, would have to be the most entertaining A segment hatchback on the market. 

The little car sells remarkably well for a model which in its Fiat form at least, has been on the market since 2007. Now, eleven years on from the original ‘esseesse’ tuning kit for the Abarth 500 comes the 2019 version. Back then, power was lifted to 160hp, the suspension was hardened via Eibach lowering springs, the braking system was improved and there were other motorsport-themed tweaks.

Mechanical LSD and Akrapovic exhaust

The latest 595 esseesse, revealed at the Geneva motor show in March, boasts an additional twenty horsepower and the distinctive bass-heavy sound provided by an Akrapovic exhaust system. Keeping everything under control are Koni dampers, a mechanical limited-slip differential and Brembo front brakes with oversized red calipers. Other features which mark out the new edition are special seventeen-inch Supersport alloy wheels with what FCA calls a Racing White finish plus Abarth side stripes and mirror caps.

There are snazzy carbon fibre touches for the interior, including the shells of what are body-hugging front seats. These are supplied by Sabelt and have the digits 7 and 0 weaved into the fabric to mark the car out as being part of Abarth’s 70th year. The shiny-hard backs of these seats may look fantastic but they’re none too kind to the knees of anyone who’s been squeezed in behind them, although really, no Fiat 500 or Abarth 595/695 is anything more than a 2+2 is it?

Hard suspension the only bad news

Without the LSD keeping torque-steer under control, the esseesse would likely be quite a handful. Instead, this little three-door hatchback is enormously pleasing for the driver. There isn’t much in the way of body roll, cornering limits are higher than you might imagine and the only bit of not so great news is thumpy suspension on any road which isn’t all that well maintained.

The noise is what really sells the 180hp versions of the Abarth 595. I know it’s fairly insane to be even thinking about dropping more than GBP27,000 on a modified Fiat 500 but the canvas roof option makes things even better. Top down and with the Sport button pressed, the esseesse’s rumble at idle plus the popping and banging from the tailpipes on down-changes can be appreciated even more intensely.

Summary

There will be a new Fiat 500 in 2020 (at the next Geneva show) which means fresh Abarth versions too, although those may not premiere until the second half of the year.

Will the successor to the latest 595 and 695 Abarths be as untamed as the latest cars? I wonder. Euro 6d is coming and the days when a tiny hatchback will be allowed to emit 155g/km as the current 180hp engine does, well, they’re numbered. We know what’s happened to the value of the limited edition 695 Tributo Ferrari from 2009 – prices are stratospheric – so the current 595 esseesse could be a car to lock away for the future.

Abarth 595 pricing starts at GBP16,495 which is for the 145hp 1.4-litre turbo (the Cabrio is an extra GBP2,000). The 165hp variants cost from GBP19,695 with 180hp cars priced between GBP21,795 (Competizione trim level) and GBP27,295 (Esseesse Cabrio).