Review: Abarth 124 Spider (2016)
Great fun to drive. More power and torque than the Fiat 124. Aggressive styling.
Very loud. Expensive. Impractical. Fiat 124 and Mazda MX-5 are better value. 124 Spider Withdrawn from UK market from January 2019.
Abarth 124 Spider (2016): At A Glance
- New prices start from £26,925, brokers can source from £32,334
- Contract hire deals from £280.76 per month
- Insurance Group 27
- On average it achieves 83% of the official MPG figure
The Abarth 124 is the fastest and most extreme version of the Fiat 124. Great to drive, aggressively styled and supplied with a riotous soundtrack, the Abarth provides open-top thrills. Unfortunately its appeal is dented somewhat by its lofty price, which makes it rather expensive compared to the range-topping 2.0-litre MX-5, with which it shares many of its components.
Power comes from the same 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine that's used in the standard 124, but the output has been increased to 170PS while torque peaks at 250Nm. Zero to 62mph acceleration is swift too - at 6.8 seconds - and there’s plenty of punch in the mid-range which means the Abarth 124 feels a lot quicker than its official figures suggest.
The steering, transmission and pedals are beautifully weighted and positioned, so the Abarth 124 is a real joy to drive on a twisting road, with lots of feedback through the chassis. It’s easy to place in a corner and has nimble, involving handling that makes it easy to judge grip levels. As a result, it’s huge fun, especially with the roof down.
Folding it is very quick and easy, but it is manually operated. The handbook recommends stopping and getting out of the car, but at very low speeds or when stopped at a set of lights it’s easy to undo the locking mechanism and fold the roof back in a matter of seconds – or vice-versa if it starts to rain.
Compared to the Fiat, the Abarth has a much louder exhaust system and it’s arguably a bit too loud. Expect some twitching curtains from your neighbours if you have to make an early start. And that noise, while fun on the right road, can get tiresome after a few hours cruising on the motorway.
Like the Fiat 124, there isn’t much space inside. It’s a two-seater – so no carrying extra passengers even for short trips – and taller drivers simply won’t be able to get comfy. There is very little in the way of storage, with no door pockets and, while boot space is the same whether the roof is up or down, it’s only really big enough for a small suitcase or a couple of shopping bags.
The Abarth 124 won't be for everyone, but if you appreciate aggressive styling and a thunderous soundtrack then this angry, shouting soft-top will have lots of appeal. As a driver's car, it’s a great upgrade over the standard Fiat 124 and a great alternative to the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. Just beware that picking a few extras can push the price north of £30,000 – which is a lot of money for an impractical roadster.
What does a Abarth 124 Spider (2016) cost?
Abarth 124 Spider (2016): What's It Like Inside?
Inside, it’s clear to see the similarities with the Mazda MX-5 on which the Abarth is based. The layout is more or less the same and material quality is fine if not particularly plush. There are different upholstery choices, Alcantara inlays, Abarth logos and unique dials to set the Abarth apart from both the Fiat and Mazda.
Sadly, if you’re much taller than 6ft then you simply won’t fit in the 124. Leg room and head room is limited and the seats are not suited to those with broad shoulders, so getting comfortable can be quite tricky even if you’re not that tall. Fortunately, if you do fit then the controls are very nicely placed, including those for infotainment and ventilation.
The roof is folded manually and takes just a few seconds – simply undo the single latch and push it back and down until it locks into place. The user manual suggests getting out to do this, but realistically it can be raised or lowered in a matter of seconds from the driver’s seat.
Whether it’s up or down, boot space remains the same. But that’s not saying much – capacity is just 140 litres and the opening is awkward, meaning it’s tricky to get anything bulky in or out. Soft weekend bags or a top-up shop are fine, but anything bigger requires a different car.
Storage in the cabin is limited too. There is a storage bin between the seats and a small cubby in the transmission tunnel, but that’s it. If you want to carry a bottle of water then you’ll just have to let it roll around the passenger footwell. This isn’t a practical car by any means.
It is fairly well-equipped though. A touchscreen system, Bluetooth with audio streaming, climate control and air-conditioning are standard. But if you want navigation you’ll have to pay more, while Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aren’t supported at all.
Abarth 124 Spider Scorpione comes with climate control, Record Monza exhaust, keyless start button, electric windows, leather and fabric upholstery, infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and touchscreen. No automatic transmission is available and the colour palette is limited.
Abarth Spider gains additional colour options, including the option of a matte black bonnet and boot lid, along with more aggressive styling details.
Child seats that fit a Abarth 124 Spider (2016)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Abarth 124 Spider (2016) like to drive?
- Engines range from 1.4 MultiAir 170 to 1.4 MultiAir 170 Automatic
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 30–45 mpg
The Abarth 124 is based on the Fiat 124, which itself is based on the Mazda MX-5. That’s great news if you enjoy driving, because it’s fantastic fun and works really well on twisting UK roads. The steering, pedals and transmission are perfectly weighted and give the car real poise, while providing loads of feedback to the driver.
Abarth has taken the same engine used in the standard Fiat 124 – a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol – and cranked up the power from 140PS to 170PS. Torque is up by 10Nm too, so performance is good – 0-62mph takes 6.8 seconds. On the road there’s plenty of get up and go for passing slow traffic and acceleration is accompanied by a meaty exhaust note.
That exhaust note is pretty loud though. In fact, it’s so loud it might attract the wrong kind of attention both from other road users and your neighbours on a quiet Sunday morning. But get it going on the right road it sounds good, with the odd pop and burble here and there giving it some extra character.
As standard the Abarth 124 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox that has a nice short throw and a really slick feel. But if you want an auto, a six-speed is available and, while it does remove some of the driver involvement when on the perfect driving road, it is much easier around town or when stuck in a motorway jam.
If you’re considering the MX-5 too, be sure to test the 2.0-litre. It isn’t turbocharged and so revs much more cleanly, soaring up to the redline in a way that’s more exciting and involving than the turbocharged 1.4 used in the Abarth, despite its slightly more modest power and torque output.
There’s nothing to separate the two cars in corners though. The Abarth 124 handles beautifully thanks in part to a standard limited-slip differential, with superb steering and a suspension set up which, while slightly jiggly and unsettled at low speeds, feels just right on a B-road, providing excellent control and feedback.
Compared to similarly-priced hot hatch it might not have the outright pace, but the driving experience is so delightfully involving you won’t care that you’re slower than some other road users. On your favourite road, with the roof down, the Abarth 124 (and its Fiat and Mazda equivalents) is absolutely wonderful.
|1.4 MultiAir 170||44 mpg||6.8 s||148 g/km|
|1.4 MultiAir 170 Automatic||43 mpg||6.9 s||153 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Abarth 124 Spider (2016)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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