By Mike Torpey on 2020-01-25 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
THE sign of the scorpion gives a clear indication as to the type of car produced by Abarth.
Now owned by the Fiat group, the brand was founded 70 years ago by Carlo Abarth, a designer and racer who was born under the Scorpio star sign and went on to break countless records on the track.
And since then the now familiar scorpion badge has become synonymous with performance vehicles.
One of the most celebrated of those models is the Abarth 595 - essentially a Fiat 500 but an entirely different beast. In fact it's a real pocket rocket.
While all models in the 595 line-up boast features that highlight their sporting nature and boost performance, the Competizione version raises the bar even higher.
Like its stablemates this variant uses Fiat's 1.4-litre T-jet petrol engine but develops 180bhp - quite some wallop for a lightweight city car.
The upshot is the ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds plus the potential to max out at 140mph, though it's the dynamic adjustments that make the Competizione really stand out.
For instance it comes fitted with a new Active Record Monza exhaust plus a mechanical self-locking differential ensuring optimum torque transfer between the front wheels for more precise high speed cornering.
That road-holding is further boosted by something called Frequency Selective Damping shock absorbers, ensuring better stability.
And given the amount of power on tap, this variant gets a Brembo braking set-up with four-piston fixed callipers - in red as standard but with the option to change to yellow, grey or black - and paired with perforated 305mm discs.
Inside, meanwhile, the dashboard - which has always been one of the 595's most iconic elements - matches the exterior body colour and is customised for each version.
So the Competizione dash is in Anthracite Grey, also used for the sporty bumper inserts, while the car's turbo pressure gauge is backlit in white to make it easier to read.
Retro and very loud, the 595 Competizione isn't to everyone's liking with its buzzy nature and hard suspension but it can be terrific fun to drive and always feels like it's travelling faster than it actually is.
Shell-shaped Abarth Corsa by Sabelt seats with red or yellow seatbelts add to the racy theme along with aluminium pedals and a digital display with two modes - normal for info like fuel consumption and headlight alignment and sport which shows performance data.
When telling his life story Carlo Abarth said that "engines, cars, races, automotive passion and speed were like a wonderful madness that turned us into enthusiasts seeking to go faster, with ever perfected mechanics".
Abarth 595 Competizione 1.4 T-jet 180
Mechanical: 180bhp, 1,363cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 41.5
Insurance Group: 34
C02 emissions: 155g/km
Bik rating: 35%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles
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