Fiat 124 Spider Abarth: Belongs on your Driveway!

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By Asian Journal Auto Editor

Fiat is famous for making exciting sports cars on its own, but has now teamed up with Mazda for input with the new version of its iconic Fiat 124 Spider two seater. The sleek, gorgeous looking 124 has been around since 1966 and ended production in 1985, after a storied production run. The new version shares the current Mazda MX-5 platform, which also gives up its transmission from the previous-generation MX-5, and a few other bits and pieces.

Like the MX-5, the Fiat 124 is a looker with that aggressive front hood. The 124 is slightly longer due to the longer hoof, and different front and rear fascias. The 124 Spider is also a tad lower. Hate to say it, but the Fiat wins out in the looks department with its matt black hood and trunk lid, and sleeker profile. Replacing the MX-5 2.0 liter four cylinder engine is Fiat’s own 1.4  – litre MultiAir turbo-four borrowed from the 500 Abarth mounted longitudinally and delivering 160-hp, and 184 lb-ft of torque. The 124 Spider also receives the six speed transmission – manual or auto from the MX-5. The 124 Spider is priced from $31,795 (Classica), $33,795 for the mid -range Lusso and $35,295 for the top Abarth edition.

The 124 Spider Abarth, as tested adds: 17-inch gunmetal wheels, red brake calipers, dual exhausts, Abarth badging, and more aggressive unique front and rear fascias, and gun metal mirror caps. In the handling department, the Abarth gets rear Bilstein dampers, a mechanical limited-slip differential, front strut tower bar and sport mode selector. The Abarth version also comes with as standard: heated seats, automatic climate control, Sirius satellite radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 7-inch infotainment display from the MX -5. The Fiat offers optional premium packages with features like blind spot detection, Bose speakers, LED headlamps, quad sports exhaust, and GPS navigation. You can also order: rear cross-path detection and park-assist as an extra cost packages.

Inside, there is a neat, well detailed cabin. The available red and black Recaro seats look good and are finished in a part leather/Alcantara finish and excellent lumbar and side support. The dash has some typical Italian flair with a big red tachometer and “Abarth” badge on the chunky steering wheel. There are some other red interior accents in the cabin to spice things up. A smallish centre console bin separates the occupant, and there is a lockable bin between the two seatbacks. The rear trunk is tight, but with soft bags, will handle enough luggage for a weekend away. The soft top is manual affair that folds neatly and quickly as needed, so accentuating the lines of the car.

On the road, our tester Abarth Spyder with the six speed manual tranny was a joy to drive, the gears snick in and out with good precision. It is on corners where the Abarth shines. It’s so exciting to point and squirt the nose and then let off the throttle and power out of bends. Peak torque comes on strong at 184 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm and is delivered in a more linear fashion rather in surges. The quick steering has the right amount of ratio and is very responsive and precise. I like the rear Bilstein damper setup that keeps the Abarth’s tail squat. Fiat have also done a good job in keeping the ride just firm enough for good reflexes, but not race car hard; the chassis feels rock sold, with no scuttle shake or flexing over hard bumps and rough road. That blatting exhaust note is also music to any performance driver.

To sum up, the 124 Abarth is a lithe, gorgeous car to own and drive, it’s exceptional in and around town with its pleasant driving manners. It also won’t leave you feeling beaten up after a long drive. Downsides? Well, the Abarth 124 – is probably not a daily driver unless you have multiple cars in the garage. It can be tight for tall or big sized people, and interior storage and cargo area is small. Also it starts getting expensive when you add all the options in the Abarth version. Still if you want the most fun in thoroughbred sports car you should really consider it.  Go On! You only live once!

2019 Fiat 124 Spyder Abarth Priced from: Price as tested www.fiat.ca

Base Price: $35,295 plus options.