Midrand - It’s a Fiat 500, Jim, but not as we know it. Fiat Chrysler Automobile SA has updated its Abarth 500 range for 2017 to become the 595, with new lighting clusters at both ends, bigger sound and, for the first time on a 500 derivative, a genuine mechanical limited-slip differential.
It’s available in your choice of three models, each in either tin-top or cabriolet format; motorvation is provided in each case by a 1.4-litre T-Jet turbopetrol four (in varying states of tune) with either a six-speed manual or sequential robotised automatic transmission.
In each case, however, you get a chunky new front end with no less than six polyelliptical projectors - including the low-mounted foglights - LED daylight running lights across the range, and a gaping air intake in a black apron over a built-in splitter.
Nobody’s going to mistake this attitudinous little road rat for a standard 500 from behind either, with four tailpipes aiming at them from a deep diffuser-style rear bumper and a distinctive tailgate spoiler.
The gelato-flavoured 595 comes with its T-Jet tuned for 106kW and 206Nm, while the 595 Turismo boasts 121kW and 230Nm, and the flagship 595 Competizione is good for a quoted 132kW and 250Nm.
The manual-transmission Competizione also comes standard with the Performance Pack, which includes the limited-slip differential, special Supersport rims Sabelt sports seats with carbon-fibre shells, trimmed in a mix of leather and alcantara synthetic suede, and a carved-aluminium ‘595’ badge on the roof - which helps to explain the huge R74 000 price difference between the Turismo and Competizione models.
The top two grades roll on 17 inch alloys in your choice of 11 designs, the 595 on sixteens - but FCA will happily fit any of the bigger hoops on your 595 for a few dollars more.
Traction control, hill hold and tyre pressure monitoring are included in the comprehensive safety kit.
Black fabric trim is standard across the board; a choice of black, red or natural leather is an extra-cost option on 595 and Turismo models, with a mix of leather and alcantara in either black or natural on offer for Competizione customers.
All 595s come with air conditioning (climate control on the Turismo and Competizione) electric windows, remote central locking, an 18cm digital display with sport mode in the centre stack, and Uconnect 12.7cm radio with Bluetooth connectivity and satellite controls on the steering wheel.
Also available for the first time on a 595 (albeit only in the top two grades, and then as an extra-cost option) is a seven-speaker BeatsAudio system by Dr Dre, with 440 watts from a digital eight-channel amplifier, a dome tweeter in each A pillars, a 165mm midwoofers in each door, a 165mm full-range speaker in each rear side panel and a 200mm subwoofer in the spare-wheel recess under the middle of the boot.
595 - R299 950
595 Cabrio - R339 950
595 Turismo - R369 950
595 Turismo Cabrio - R409 950
595 Competizione - R443 950
595 Competizione Cabrio - R483,950
These include a three-year or 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan - but be aware that all the Competiziones in the initial batch are already spoken for, so you’ll have to order yours now for delivery in about three months.