Abarth 124 Spider review - Fun and character come at a price

Abarth's take on the Fiat 124 is probably the best 'MX-5' yet

evo Verdict

Italian and Japanese automotive partnerships haven’t always been the most successful. Giugiaro’s original Lexus GS300 was disappointingly bland, Nissan Autech’s Zagato Stelvio completely bizarre, and the Nissan Cherry-based Alfa Romeo Arna catastrophically awful.

But Mazda and Fiat’s collaboration on the 124 Spider (based on the MX-5, built in Hiroshima and graced with an Italian heart and clothing) is much more like it, and the Abarth 124 Spider is the best of the bunch.

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Basically, it’s a lot of fun, and while it has many of the MX-5’s foibles, it also has plenty of character to make up for it. It isn’t the fastest sports car, nor the most sophisticated, but the combination of a roaring turbocharged engine, tactile gearshift and easily-accessible limits make almost any journey enjoyable. 

evo Tip

Abarth offers an automatic gearbox in the 124 Spider. We’ve not yet driven an example so-equipped, but it’s hard to imagine the six-speed auto suiting the character of the car quite as well as the snappy, satisfying manual, so we’d be tempted to opt for the latter.

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The 124’s distinctive styling is immeasurably improved by the inclusion of the retro-style matt black bonnet and bootlid too, so given it’s an option that comes entirely free of charge, it’s a box we’d tick.

evo Comment

‘With the tration control fully off, the Abarth feels like it can breathe and fully express itself, and without huge reserves of power it’s never intimidating. The limited-slip differential is well tuned to the rest of the car, the speed and degree at which it locks up really helping the Abarth feel instinctive and transparent. With the back end squatting as you work the rear wheels with the throttle, the Abarth can be extremely good fun.’ Will Beaumont, evo 225

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