The All New Abarth 124 spider sets a new benchmark. A curb weight of only 1,060 kg, with a weight-power ratio of just 6.2 kg/HP. The weight is concentrated within the wheelbase for optimum weight distribution (50:50) ensuring performance and agility. Offering unparalleled handling thanks to suspension derived from our racing experience.
Now, fun turns into something serious.
The Abarth 124 Spider shares the same chassis as the Fiat 124 Spider, which in turn is taken from the Mazda MX-5. It also has the same silky-smooth six-speed manual gearbox from the Mazda too. But if you think for one moment the Abarth is just an MX-5 with a party frock on, you’re very much mistaken. What Abarth has done is take all the cracking elements of the MX-5, planted them into its own beautifully designed body and added the engine from its little Abarth 595 to give it that extra oomph needed over the standard Fiat 124 Spider. Together with a Monza exhaust system and Brembo brakes, it makes for a fantastic little roadster.
Never before have I driven a car in this price range that has drawn so much attention. The way it looks with the two-tone matt black and metallic bodywork is a good part of it, but the car’s raucous engine note is the main reason why people’s heads turn in its direction. It’s louder than most cars on the road, or appears to be anyway. The styling is elegant, with the rear especially resembling that of a Maserati GranTurismo.
When on the move the ride is pretty firm but not uncomfortable and adds to the sportiness. The whole car feels surprisingly solid and very well screwed together. This is probably thanks to the fact that almost all of the interior is lifted out of the MX-5, but it adds some extra levels of luxury – Alcantara and leather, for example.
Although it doesn't offer loads of space the Spider does offer slightly more legroom and headroom than you get in the Mazda MX-5 RF.
The boot is also not big, but can easily swallow a small suitcase or a weekly shop with ease, and thanks to the roof being a simple soft-top, there is no space taken up by the mechanicals of a folding hard-top.
This is a two-seat sports car though so practicality is never going to be great. If you look at it in that context, it is still a usable everyday car – even if there isn’t a glove box.
Once you get inside the Abarth the seats are very comfortable and the driving position is spot on, and even though the interior will be very familiar to fans of the current-generation Mazda MX-5, the materials are different, with a mix of leather on the seats and Alcantara on the dashboard, gear gator and handbrake to add an extra feel of luxury. There’s even an Abarth logo emblazoned on the centre console lid and an Abarth badge on the cubbyhole between the two seats.
Depress the clutch, push the start button and the sounds come. The Monza quad exhausts behind you roar and vibrate like no other car. The noise is fantastic and certainly attracts a lot of attention wherever you go, and every now and then when you put your foot down, it pops and bangs, and you can’t help but laugh with delight.
Once on the move the gearbox is one of the best currently available to use and is virtually identical to the Mazda MX-5 gearbox.
The handling is fantastic, with quick, precise steering. Put your foot down and there is some turbo lag however, but this doesn’t last very long and certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment you have driving the Abarth.
One thing the Abarth delivers in spades is fun. Every mile in this car was joyous. The feel of the car and the way it looks all add up to a great driving experience.
The Abarth 124 Spider is aimed at those wanting a little extra performance and much better looks in a roadster than other rivals offer. And although you could buy a Mercedes SLC180 for the same money, it doesn’t have as much power and will be a standard model without the extra tech this car offers.
The Abarth is aimed at the sort of person who wants a drop-top with kerbside appeal that doesn’t break the bank and is always going to be the less obvious choice and therefore slightly unusual.
Model: Abarth 124 Spider
Base price: £29,625
Price as tested: £32,265
Engine tested: 1.4-litre Turbo Multiair
Max speed: 144mph
0-60mph: 6.6 seconds
MPG: 44 (combined cycle)
Take a closer look by using our interior and exterior tours