Trying to squeeze our “more to love” stature into a tiny two-seater convertible is like trying to repackage Christmas decorations back into that old box – there’s some huffing, some tucking, and few maybe even a few swear words. The result however is the inconceivable pure grin one gets as soon as the engine cranks over.
After the partnership with Mazda, sharing the chassis between the Miata MX-5 and the 124 Spider made for mixed feelings in the industry. Also creating the running joke, Fiata. Hardy har-har. Our last experience with both brands left us having the last laugh with two completely different conclusions. The Mazda Miata MX-5 was the heartier mountain attacker that’ll remind your passenger what they had for breakfast while the Fiat 124 Spider was the blissful cruiser you take into wine country and have a picnic.
Thing is however, Abarth got their hands on the 124 – they got tired of the RomCom sideshow romantic picnic scene and figure it was time for some real theatrical playtime. Despite there being 8 Abarth badges on a car no bigger than your average dining room table – it presents more than just some fancy paint work and a few silly badges. The Abarth increases performance by 4 horsepower – may not seem like much, but in car that weights nearly the same as a riding lawn mower, it makes all the difference. The 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine now produces 164-horsepower with 184lb-ft of torque applied to the rear wheels. This means 0-60 mph in six seconds.
Other Abarth upgrades includes front and rear Bilstein sport suspension system, limited-slip differential, front strut tower bar, and the Abarth signature exhaust system. All of these subtle differences make the 124 Spider a completely different and unique experience. The car is friskier than before as the sport suspension hold tight in the corner’s generating low amounts of body roll. The steering feels more in tune to the responsiveness and generators a pleasant on-center feel for the road. The Abarth changes direction like fly living on the edge, escaping the swap of death. And at the hint of slight acceleration in a turn, the back-end slides around like that fly who escaped death by merely losing a wing.
Surprisingly, the Abarth isn’t the most expensive 124 Spider – starting at $29,590, the Abarth comes in second to the Lusso Red Top Edition at $32,735. Sadly however, where the Lusso Red Top Edition stops at its starting price, the Abarth takes things up a level. You want grippy red painted Brembo’s? That’s $1495. What about the Comfort and Convenience with blind spot monitoring, parking sensors and rear cross traffic detection? Add $1495 to the price. What if you want Navigation and upgraded Bose sound system? Yeah that’s $1295. Do you like LED headlights with a signature accent light? Add another $995. Do you like our Abarth’s black hand-painted stripe down the middle? Yeah that’ll set you back $2195. And we can’t forget about the “not-made-for-plus-size-people” Recaro racing seats. That’s another $1195.
Add all that up including a $1245 destination charge and we end up with a sticker shock of $38,210.
Hitting the near forty grand mark this a hard slug to swallow considering this is not a usable car on a daily basis. The sport suspension is too firm – our plump body giggles at the slightest crack in the road. With the trunk not fitting anything more than a one night grocery run and the cup holders placed behind the driver, it’s not very convenient to the average hustle and bustle of everyday life.
That is until we start the engine – the natural sound of an Abarth exhaust note waking up the neighbors and sounding off the car alarms. Drop the top in however quick you can move, the Abarth can be a friendly car or just a road demon – depending on how you want to play. The Abarth is quick, for what it is – it doesn’t need to be fast by any means. The turbo hear spools up quick enough for decent acceleration. The gear points are firm with the feeling of engagement as we slide through each gear. The clutch, given its sport nature is manageable and comfortable even in traffic. It’s firm with great receptive inputs.
Driving the 124 Spider is like being in a relationship; we all want one, exciting to be in one, but don’t recognize the amount of pain and tormenting they’ll cause when we have to live with one. For just as quick as they’ll leave a smile on our face, there’s a headache waiting for you just as fast. The 124 Spider Abarth is one of the most joyful two seater sports cars this side of 40-grand – just remember what what you’re in for before signing the dotted line on the check.
Model: 2018 FIAT 124 SPIDER ABARTH
Starting Price: $28,195
As Tested: $38,210
Engine: 1.4-LITER MULTIAIR TURBO-CHARGED FOUR-CYLINDER ENGINE
Horsepower/Torque: 164-HORSEPOWER / 184LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: 6-SPEED MANUAL
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 26-CITY / 35-HWY / 30-COMBINED
(AS TESTED: 24.2 MPG COMBINED)
Fuel Range: 250 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±6.0 SECONDS