The Abarth 124 Spider takes Fiat’s simple sportscar recipe and adds a pinch of chilli to the mix. It’s faster, louder and looks sportier but all these tasty extras cost… well, extra
The Abarth 124 Spider is ideal if you fancy a small sports car but want something with a little more character than the Mazda MX-5.
It’s based on the Fiat 124 Spider but comes with a healthy 30hp boost for its 1.4-litre engine and some eye-catching styling upgrades – not to mention a faintly ridiculous exhaust that’s loud enough to rouse a comatose neighbour.
Inside, however, it looks pretty much identical to the standard Fiat 124. You get the same simple dashboard design, easy-to-read dials and free-standing infotainment system. Besides a few suede-like Alcantara trims, red contrast stitching and a big Abarth badge on the steering wheel you’d be hard-pressed to tell where your extra money has gone.
Just like the Fiat, you might struggle to get comfortable if you’re quite tall. No amount of hair-spray will keep your ‘do’ in check at 70mph and the plush leather-trimmed seats don’t come with much adjustment – you don’t even get lumbar support to reduce back ache on long drives.
The boot’s pretty cramped too. Its 140-litre capacity is 10-litres larger than the MX-5’s but half the size of the Audi TT Roadster’s 280-litre load bay. As a result, a few soft bags will fit, but that’s about it.
The Abarth 124 Spider is like the Fiat 124 Spider’s punk-rock cousin. It’s brasher, louder and comes with loads of tattoo-like scorpion emblems on its two-tone bodywork
You’ll soon forget about the luggage you’ve had to leave behind once you hit the Abarth’s start button. Its 170hp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine springs to life with a much throatier gurgle than the Fiat’s – and anything offered in the MX-5 – and accompanies each fast gearchange with an assortment of pops and bangs.
As a result, it’s not a car to slink through sleepy villages unnoticed, but it makes for a much more entertaining Sunday drive than either the standard 124 or the MX-5. It’ll sprint from 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds compared to the 2.0-litre Mazda’s 7.3 seconds and Fiat’s 7.5 seconds and its stiffer suspension helps it grip through corners more keenly. It also comes with a clever limited-slip differential to help it accelerate out of tight turns more quickly, too.
Unfortunately, it’s much less relaxing to drive on the motorway than these alternatives. Plenty of wind and tyre noise makes its way into the cabin alongside a rather booming drone from the exhaust. The Audi TT Roadster makes a much better motorway cruiser than the rather rowdy Abarth.
So it might not be particularly relaxing to drive, but at least it’s pretty safe. It shares many mechanical bits and bobs with the Mazda MX-5 – a car that earned a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2015 – and it comes with cruise control as standard.
Unfortunately, the Abarth can’t quite match the Mazda when it comes to value for money – even entry-level cars cost more than a top-spec MX-5 – but if cartoonish styling and a larger-than-life driving experience are what you’re after, it could be the perfect sportscar.