In-depth reviews

Abarth 124 Spider review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights

Flawed but boisterous; fun and with plenty of character, its problem is a lack of finesse and its dreary engine

Evo rating
Price
from £29,565
  • Lots of fun, accessible performance, engaging character
  • Quite expensive, steering lacks feedback

Engine, gearbox and technical highlights

There’s only one Abarth 124 as yet, utilising Fiat’s familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged MultiAir powerplant. Displacing 1368cc across four cylinders and boosted by a small turbocharger mounted amusingly prominently in the engine bay, it develops 170PS at 5500rpm, with 250Nm of torque on tap from 2500rpm.

These outputs are then sent through either a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed “sequenziale sportivo” automatic to the rear axle, where twist is dealt to each wheel through a standard limited-slip differential.

Spent gases make their own journey to the rear of the car and exit through an amusingly farty “record Monza” exhaust system, which is standard. The exhaust note dominates much of the Abarth 124 experience, emitting a bassy grumble at idle, and a more aggressive parp as the revs rise. It sounds much like the smaller Abarth 500 as you’d expect, but like the hatchback the tone becomes less tuneful at higher revs, at least from inside the car.

Keep the engine in its sweet spot – somewhere between around 2000-5000rpm – and it’s a satisfying drivetrain to use. The gearshift, as you’d expect given its Mazda MX-5 origins, is fantastic. Possibly better than the MX-5 itself in fact, with a slightly meatier action (possibly a result of the shorter, stumpier lever) and without the slightly twee vibrations through the lever at idle. The engine is responsive too, again providing you keep it spinning in its sweet spot, and it’s free-revving enough to make short blips of the throttle a satisfying experience.

It’s better still in Sport mode, which doesn’t add any enthusiasm to the top end but does sharpen low-end response. Combined with pedals well-placed for heel-and-toe it’s great fun stirring up and down the ‘box and working through the rev range.

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