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The Top Gear car review:Abarth 124 Spider
For:Less-stressed, torquier turbo engine, and more aggressive than the Mazda - if you like that sort of thing. Good daily driver too.
Against: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 – the Abarth has been successfully sportified and that does help distance it from the usual jibes. OK, I can’t leave it there. Fiat may claim it harks back to the original 1966 124 Spider, but compared to the neat, pert, sweet’n’swoopy MX-5, this does look rather heavy-handed.
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. Just one more fly in the soup before we go any further – it costs £29,565. That’s not a small price.