Take the brilliant mechanicals and engineering of the Mazda MX5 Miata, combine them with the flair and elegance of Italian design and what do you get? A great roadster called the Fiat 124 Spider, with the Abarth version being more sporty and aggressive looking. The name 124 is revived from the classic Fiat 124 roadster of the late 60’s and 70’s.
Why aren’t people buying roadsters anymore? I honestly don’t get it. I have one in my collection and love driving alfresco every time I get the chance to do it. Of course, living in sunny South Florida it’s quite easy to do often.
Approach the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth from any angle and you instantly notice the neo-classic lines of a small sports car. This design look dates back to the late 50’s and 60’s yet with the 124 it fits it well. The long classic hood is a traditional trademark of a sports car and in this case, it is sumptuously sculptured with character lines and angles. The smartly integrated lights and bumper create a classic look to the front yet still makes a statement. The side profile is low and sleek, featuring petite doors and a soft-top that compliments the silhouette perfectly. The rear is made up of a small trunk and a surprisingly simple yet smart looking design element integrating the bumper, lights and exhaust tips. Bravo Fiat!
Once inside, you notice the design details on the seats, as these are covered in leather and feature elegant stitching and trim. There are several instantly recognizable interior pieces from the Mazda Miata parts bin, and that’s perfectly fine as they are world class to begin with. Steering wheel is well appointed with fingertip controls and offers a sporty feel. Infotainment is controlled with a BMW I drive-like rotary dial that frankly was not that intuitive to navigate, although it did get easier to understand as my week with the 124 went on. There is a small-ish screen in the upper-middle of the dash that works fine for the space. Speaking of space, there is not a lot of it, so pack wisely what you want with you inside the cabin. There is a storage area in the rear compartment between both seats which also serves as the glove box. Its ok, this is a fun roadster, not an appliance.
In a car like this, there is a huge difference from driving it with the top up as compared with the top down. Speaking of the top, it shares the same mechanism with the MX5 Miata and is by far, one of the best if not the best in the industry for ease of use. Brilliant design Mazda! Driving with the top down you don’t feel any of the, at times, mild claustrophobia that a small confined space can give. I drove it mostly top down, giving that wonderful feeling of being one with the wind and the sun. Top up there is noticeably reduced noise and more comfort overall, especially with the A/C set to a comfortable temperature.
The test 124 I drove was a six-speed manual version which is much more fun to drive than the automatic equivalent. Mazda has done a great job with the tuning of the clutch, throttle and gears and the 124 feels the same. The engine is a more powerful Fiat engine with more power than the one in the Miata. The 124 is a joy to drive both around town as well as on an open road enjoying some aggressive turns. The clutch and linkage to the shifts are direct and with perfect feedback. The 124 is not going to win any 0-60 MPH drag races, but that’s not the point of this car. This is the perfect South Beach, Key Biscayne or Mizner Park cruiser. It is smooth, easy to drive and with a wonderful old-world, analog feel that few, if any cars have today.
Comparables Include: Mazda MX5 Miata, Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro
Would I buy one? Absolutely. You should too!
MSRP: $29,540.00 MSRP (As Tested): $35,495.00
Fuel Economy (Observed): 29 MPG
Engine: I-4, 1.4 liter, 164 HP, 184 Lb/Ft of Torque, MultiAir Turbo
Popular Options: Leather Sports Seats, Comfort and Convenience Group, Navigation & Sound Group, Visibility Group. Options Total: $4,380.00 plus destination charge of: $1,495.00
Please Visit: www.fiatusa.com
* Photos furnished by FCA