Abarth 124 Spider (2016-present)

The Abarth 124 Spider is a more powerful version of the Fiat 124 Spider

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths 

Fun on track and the road
Stylish
Exhaust note sounds thrilling

Weaknesses 

Expensive: a Mazda MX-5 is £10,000 cheaper
Poor automatic gearbox
Cramped interior for taller drivers
Best New Discount

Abarth 124 Spider Roadster 1.4 t multiair 2dr auto

Total RRP £31,920

Your quote £24,656

You Save £7,264

The Mazda MX-5 has long been considered one of the best and most affordable introductions to the world of front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports cars. Its playful but manageable chassis and under-powered engine encourage the driver to explore the vehicle's limits (on a race circuit, of course) without having to tickle scary speeds.

Fiat quite clearly agrees, because it has borrowed the basic underpinnings of Mazda's latest creation and manufactured its own take on the diminutive thrill machine, dubbed the Fiat 124 spider.

To confuse matters further, Fiat has handed its 124 spider over to the marque's revered tuning arm Abarth and asked it to give the model a sporty makeover, which means the suspension has been tweaked for an even more engaging drive, there's a mechanical limited slip differential for improved traction at higher speeds, a noisier exhaust and a glut of Abarth scorpion badges and bespoke design touches.

This extra dollop of athleticism is noticeable as soon as the ignition button is pressed. The Record Monza quad exhaust pipes bark into life and settle into a deep, throaty idle. The short-throw manual gearbox is satisfyingly weighty, with each cog swap requiring purposeful movements, while the additional Bilstein dampers firm up the suspension and improve handling dynamics no end.

The overall feeling is that the Abarth 124 spider builds on what the MX-5 offers but throws in an additional layer of performance thrills. The engine note is more theatrical and the track-focussed bolt-ons mean drivers can experiment with vehicle dynamics and push the car harder.

For those wanting the Abarth styling without the engaging drive, a six-speed auto gearbox is available. Prices start at £31,605 but be warned, it's ponderous, takes an age to shift gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddles and certainly blunts the razor sharp performance of its manual counterpart.

No matter the gearbox choice, the Abarth product stands out from its brethren with a neat black bonnet and boot lid stripe, LED headlights and rear spoiler, while the interior receives a smattering of Alcantara, leather and additional scorpion badging.

Plus, all UK models receive a 7-inch display, which is controlled via a neat rotary dial on the centre console, with DAB radio, Bluetooth phone paring and USB ports for charging phones and tablets on the move. Navigation is a £420 optional extra.

Clearly there are compromises to be made when opting for a car of this nature. Boot space is limited to just 140-litres, there's barely enough room inside for a small bottle of water and road noise insulation from the fabric roof isn't the best at high speeds.

It's also pricey. At £29,565, the Abarth is £5,270 more expensive than the top spec Mazda MX-5 and £6,270 more than the Fiat 124 spider in luxurious Lusso Plus trim.

But for those wanting limited edition Italian looks, a hairy-chested exhaust note and the track-focussed additional extras, this really does tick all of the boxes.

Last Updated 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 09:30

Key facts 

Warranty: 
3 years / unlimited mileage
Boot size: 
140 litres
Width: 
1740mm
Length: 
4054mm
Height: 
1233mm
Tax (min to max): 
From F (£145 per year) to G (£185 per year)

History 

  • 2016 Abarth 124 Spider goes on sale in Britain

Understanding names 

  • Engine
    1.4 Turbo MultiAir
  • Gearbox
    6-speed manual
  • Engine
    The Abarth 124 spider shares the same engine as Fiat's version, which is a 1.4-litre Turbo MultiAir unit that is also found in the most potent 500 models.
  • Gearbox
    6-speed shows that the car has six gears. A standard manual Abarth spider is available but an additional £2,040 buys a six-speed auto box.

Engines 

1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo

Just one engine is available and that's the 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo that can be found in both the Fiat 124 spider and the hottest versions of the Italian company’s 500 hatchback. Abarth has tweaked the unit slightly so it develops 168bhp and an extra 10Nm of torque over its Fiat sibling and it's more than enough to provide belly laughs on the open road.

There's little in the way of turbo lag and the relatively small 1.4-litre unit belies its footprint and provides plenty of shove to get the vehicle hurtling along the tarmac.

This is largely due to the fact that Fiat's tuning arm has saved mass wherever possible, meaning the 124 spider's power-to-weight ratio is an impressive 6.2kg per horsepower. The result is a car that can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds, which is a whole second faster than its Mazda counterpart.

On top of this. the Record Monza exhaust provides an entertaining soundtrack of pops and bangs, which sounds even better when the sun shines and the fabric roof is lowered.



 

Fuel

Mpg

Bhp

0 - 62mph

Top speed

1.4L Turbo MultiAir

Petrol

44.1mpg

168bhp

6.7s

144mph

Trims 

Abarth 124 spider

Thanks to the Abarth 124 spider being a 'more potent' version of Fiat's offering, it comes as standard with plenty of additional stylistic flourishes, doing away with the need for escalating trim levels.

All cars receive 17-inch alloy wheels, an unmistakable Record Monza exhaust system, the aforementioned mechanical limited slip differential, Abarth racing seats and one solid metallic colour as standard - San Marino Black.

Two pastel colours, Costa Brava Red and Turini White, cost an additional £400, while metallic Isola D'Elba Blue and Portogallo Grey cost £600.

Customers can also add a nine-speaker premium Bose sound system for £795 and satellite navigation at a cost of £420.

Finally, a Visibility Pack adds automatically levelling LED headlights and auto washers. Those headlights also become dusk sensing, the washers can automatically sense rain and Abarth throws in rear parking sensors at a total cost of £1,250.

Reliability and warranty 

The three-years/unlimited mileage warranty is fairly standard across the industry but Fiat's reputation for reliability has never been its strong point.

Fiat also languished towards the bottom of the 2016 Auto Express Driver Power Survey, while the Mazda MX-5, on the other hand, scored an impressive 96.84 average for reliability.

Used 

The Abarth 124 spider is too new to properly analyse its performance on the used car market but the fact that it will sell in relatively limited numbers, especially compared to the more popular Mazda MX-5, will likely ensure that residual values remain strong.

This is good news for those looking to retain a good chunk of change when it comes time to sell the lively sports car but not so good news for anyone looking to pick up a used bargain.

If big savings are top of the shopping list, then we advise looking at the Mazda MX-5 instead.
The sheer number of cars on the used market means that prices remain low, while their reputation for bulletproof reliability means even high mileage models can provide many more years worth of B-road giggles.