Finally, a credible rival to the Mazda MX-5! The Toyota 86 may well occupy the same segment, but it not being a convertible makes it a bit of a non contender. Fiat, and more particularly, their performance arm, Abarth, have joined the fray though – reviving an old name and creating a rival to the MX-5 that may seem rather familiar to the Japanese roadster… This is the Abarth 124 Spider – the Italian MX-5.
That’s not just a figure of speech – the Abarth 124 Spider quite literally shares its underpinnings with the Mazda MX-5, albeit with a claimed Italian flair to it.
So what of this Abarth 124 Spider then – same, but different?
Very. Where the Mazda MX-5 relies upon natural aspiration of its 2.0-litre petrol engine, the Abarth 124 Spider features boost! Yip, the familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged engine from the Abarth 595C Turismo does duty here, generating outputs of 125kW and 250Nm (to the Mazda’s 118kW and 200Nm).
That’s enough to take the 1060kg Abarth 124 Spider, which is strangely claimed at 15kg less than the Mazda upon which it’s based, from standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 6.8 seconds (versus the claimed 7.3 seconds for the MX-5).
The Abarth 124 Spider will make all the pops and bangs you expect of it too, kitted as standard with the ballistic Record Monza quad exhaust system.
But don’t think Abarth are forgetting this is a driver’s car. No, it still comes with a good ol’ 6-speed manual gearbox, and power still goes straight to the rear wheels, by means of a mechanical self-locking differential.
Ride-wise, things are said to be kept composed and controlled by the ‘Abarth by Bilstein’ shock absorbers, specially calibrated springs, and oversized anti-roll bars.
Appetite whet? There’s a big catch…
There had to be one, and in the case of the Abarth 124 Spider, much like other Abarth products, it’s the price. How much, you ask? Ahem… R649 900 all in, with only one option – metallic paint at R4 500.
Back on your chair yet? This is what that sum of money gets you…
ABS with EBD is standard safety kit, as is ESC. A ‘Visibility Plus’ kit means you get auto-levelling full-LED adaptive headlights, as well as rain-sensors, dusk sensors, and park distance sensors. Climate control and heated seats keep the inside habitable, whilst other mod-cons include a Bose sound system with 9 speakers, leather upholstery, keyless start, and cruise control.
Available in 5 colours, Turini 1975 White, Costa Brava 1972 Red, and the mettalic Isola d’Elba 1974 Blue, Portogallo 1974 Grey and San Marino 1972 Black, is the R208 200 premium over a Mazda MX-5 justifiable?
We’ll let you know once we sample it after the December launch.