What is the Abarth 124 Spider like?
The story behind the Abarth 124 Spider is somewhat convoluted, with it being primarily a sportier version of Fiat’s 124 Spider, which is itself based on the hugely successful Mazda MX-5.
Abarth, you see, is Fiat’s in-house tuner. But, you won’t find any Fiat badges on this car, and it is sold in separate dealerships.
What you do get is your two-seat inside and rear-wheel drive platform from the Mazda (and the Fiat), but with stiffer suspension, a traction-enhancing limited slip differential and a more potent version of the turbocharged 1.4-liter gas engine located in the Fiat.
So, the Abarth is the fastest edition of the fine-handling sports car, but it is also the most expensive. Keep reading to learn if it is worth the extra.
What is the sensation of driving this car?
While the motor at the Fiat 124 Spider generates 138bhp, Abarth has pulled an additional 30bhp out of it, which cuts the 0-62mph period from 7.5sec to only 6.8sec. There is a little turbo lag, which puts you back for a minute every time you upshift and may be bothersome in visitors, but once on the tune, the engine pulls strongly.
The six-speed manual gearbox helps, using a short, neat action which makes it effortless to remain within the perfect power band. It’s a far better choice than the automatic, which can not seem to choose which gear it ought to be in. Right, you can fix it with paddles behind the steering wheel, but these manual changes are not very smooth.
The Abarth 124 Spider sounds racy from the mid-century, but there is a bassy drone out of the exhaust below, while high heeled bring a full, strained engine notice, and this soundtrack stays prominent even with the roof up. You also need to put up with a fair amount of wind noise in addition to that exhaust drone over the motorway. Taller individuals may come across the top of the head blasted by the end with the top down, also.
Much more favorably, the revised suspension tames the body roll which you get in this car’s Fiat and Mazda cousins, yet the ride is still relatively supple. The limited-slip differential provides excellent traction out of corners, which is a thrilling car to drive down a winding street, since it is as involving as it’s lively, and you can correct your line effortlessly using the accelerator.
The thing is that the Abarth begins to feel raggedy the harder you push it. The stiffer suspension induces the body to wobble over bumps and sometimes you can not quite tell how much traction the front tires have. Take it to a track, and you could be disappointed, particularly as the less expensive MX-5 manages more sweetly.
The location of the car’s interior is very comfortable
The interior layout is identical to that of the Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider, besides some different finishes. But, that means all-around visibility is excellent and the head area just about acceptable for many six-footers.
Dropping (or lifting ) the guide roof is a minute’s work and may be achieved without leaving your chair. And even though the array of seat and steering wheel adjustment is limited, most people will find it easy enough to get comfortable.
Clear instrumentation is seen through the chunky steering wheel, with a notable rev counter taking center stage. The infotainment system is simple to use and responsive to both touchscreen inputs and a rotary controller, though the sat-nav maps may be a bit slow to load.
The top swathes of the inside are coated in real materials, but you will discover scratchy plastics should you look farther down – something that is acceptable in the Mazda and Fiat, but somewhat disappointing here given the Abarth’s higher cost.
Space & practicality
There is sufficient space for most adults at the 124 Spider, even though some might find the non-height adjustable driver’s seat to be mounted too high. That means we would suggest trying one with the roof up before buying, though; some of our testers cannot match with no top down. Legroom is not a problem, but the small inside does push you near your passenger making it feel claustrophobic with the roof up.
What you do get is a set of flimsy, movable cupholders, among which may be fitted near the passenger’s leg. Alternatively, both may be mounted on the tube, in prime position to be pumped by your elbow.
The boot loads in the top like an American washing machine, but is sadly far less capacious at only 140 liters. The boot shape is irregular, too, so to find a week’s bag for two inside you will want to bring squashy bags and go easy on the packaging. At least the boot does not get smaller with the roof down like some cabrios.
Cost & verdict
The Abarth 124 Spider prices more than the equivalent Fiat, while the gap into the Mazda MX-5 is more significant still, which means you are paying a lot for the excess performance. It is worth mentioning that for not much more than the Abarth you can have an Audi TT Roadster which is considerably broader, plusher insider and more economical to operate.
It is not all bad news, however, since the Abarth returns the same 44.1mpg since the Fiat and is much more efficient compared to the stronger of the two MX-5s.
All three cars come in the same Mazda production line in Japan, also, which bodes well for reliability, because Mazda sits towards the top of our reliability graphs, some way over Fiat.
The Abarth 124 Spider includes four airbags and cruise control with a speed limiter as standard. It has not been crashing tested by Euro NCAP yet, but anticipate a similar overall score into the MX-5’s four stars out of five. Both cars are held back by a relative lack of motorist assistance equipment.