Less-stressed, torquier turbo engine, and more aggressive than the Mazda - if you like that sort of thing. Good daily driver too
Expensive, and at this price the rivals are tempting. Also the chassis doesn't feel as fluid as the Mazda. And the driving position is too high
What is it?
Abarth makes a faster Fiat. So to create the car you see here, the Abarth 124 Spider, you might assume the starting point was Fiat’s 124 Spider. And you’d be right. But that’s not the start of the story, because Fiat’s starting point was the Mazda MX-5. We apologise if this is familiar ground, but it’s worth everyone knowing the full facts because they will become relevant later on.
There’s more to the Fiat/Abarth 124 Spider than just a new set of clothes. It’s a fairly comprehensive overhaul designed to give the Italian car a different vibe to its Japanese counterpart, and includes different suspension settings and a turbocharged engine, where the Mazda is nat asp only.
In the Fiat, the 1.4-litre four cylinder turbo develops 138bhp, while for the Abarth it’s turned up to 168bhp – good enough for 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 144mph, emissions of 148g/km (that put it in tax band F) and a claimed 44.1mpg on the combined cycle. We’ll see.
Make what you will of the styling, but we will say this – you'll certainly get some attention. While both the Fiat and Abarth are decidedly retro, only the latter comes with the option of heritage, rally-inspired colour schemes. The matt black bonnet? That's to reduce glare in the eyes of focused rally drivers. Well, it was. Now it's just a styling gimmick.
But a roadster is a simple car so let’s not overthink this – the Abarth is a front-engined, rear-drive, manual-gearboxed, manual-roofed two-seater that wants to show you a good time. Prices start at just under £27,000 for an entry-level 'Scorpione' version, without the retro colour schemes, or around £30k if you want that bonnet and a bit more spec. Add another ten per cent and you can have the Abarth 124 GT special, complete with removable carbon fibre hard-top.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
Provided you don’t ask too much of it, there’s a lot to enjoy with the Abarth. It’s got a wide spread of power, it’s a good-natured daily driver and looks and feels suitably sporty.
But for the amount Abarth is charging, the 124 Spider isn’t good value. Perhaps if more attention to detail had been put into the driving experience, to make it feel more special, to give the engine more charisma, the handling more deftness, then it wouldn’t feel such a stretch. But at this level you have lots of tempting options to consider. The pull of the Abarth badge has always oversome some pretty startling price tags on its heated-up Fiat 500s, mind...