Truth be told, the marriage between the Japanese and Italy car gurus has proven to be a successful one. The reason I say this is, some of you may remember the bizarre decision by Alfa Romeo to go into partnership with Nissan in the 1980s.
That could have been a brilliant a partnership, except the Alfa Romeo Arna was Japanese-designed and used Italian mechanicals and electrics. Fortunately, Fiat and Mazda have done the sensible thing and combined Italian design flair with Japanese build quality and attention to detail.
It’s no secret that the Fiat 124 Spider is built on the same platform as the Mazda MX-5, although it is longer by a good 139mm, slightly wider, heavier and powered by Fiat’s MultiAir 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that offers that slightly extra thrust.
You get a small but usable 140-litre cargo space without a spare wheel and a simple but effective manually-operated soft-top you can open or close from the driver’s seat with one hand.
The seriously large amount of money, at R649 900 that Abarth asks for their 124, brings undisputable style, performance and rear-wheel drive dynamics to the open-top sports car segment Mazda has had to itself for decades. One big reason for this is because you can get an MX-5 for as little as R441 700, and this is a huge difference at the till.
Let’s talk about the car; the 124 shares most of the interior with the MX-5, however, Abarth has added its own seats, gearshift knob and dial fascias. But they look out of place with the rest of the Mazda design – which includes the same infotainment system you get in the MX-5.
In terms of safety, you get four airbags, reversing camera, active head restraints, seatbelt reminders, active bonnet, switchable stability control and a security alarm, while other niceties like Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity, nine-speaker Bose sound, keyless entry/starting, heated seats, trip computer and climate-control are also included.
Make no mistake; the major differences are under the hood. Fiat’s MultiAir 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that produces 125kW of power at 5500rpm and 250Nm of torque at 2500rpm does duty here, and offers a healthy advantage over the 2.0-litre MX-5’s 118kW / 200Nm naturally aspirated outputs.
Fiat claims a 0-100km/h sprint in just 6.8 seconds and a top speed of 232km/h, and although the 124 Abarth feels at least that fast, it did come up a little short of these numbers when we tested it at Gerotek.
Instead of the manufacturer claimed 6.4litres per 100km fuel consumption, the 124 Abarth was able to return a not so bad 9.2litres per 100km, which when religiously sticking to smooth driving would return even better figures.
With the roof down, the 124 Abarth is a delight. It has a Sport mode selector which alters the mapping of the engine, tightens the steering and raises the stability control limits, allowing you to steer on the throttle more effectively and simply have more fun.
The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth makes all the right sounds, looks the part too, and has more character than the Mazda MX-5, but this exclusivity comes at a price where we can’t see too many people rushing into Fiat showrooms to buy the car.
Road Test Data
Model: Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
Gearbox: 6 Speed Manual Transmission
Engine: 1.4 litre 4-Cylinder Turbocharged
Power: 125 kW @ 5 500 rpm
Torque: 250 Nm @ 2 500 rpm
Licensing Mass: 1 230 kg
Power to Weight: 115.848 kW / Tonne
Power to Capacity: 91.374 kW / Litre
0-100 km/h: 7.65 Seconds
¼ Mile: 15.47 Seconds @ 147.97 km/h
1 Km: 28.17 Seconds @ 188.47 km/h
60-100 km/h: 3.87 Seconds (in 3rd Gear) / 5.32 Seconds (in 4th Gear)
80-120 km/h: 5.22 Seconds (in 4th Gear) / 6.63 Seconds (in 5th Gear)
60-140 km/h: 10.31 Seconds (in 3rd Gear)
True Top Speed: 225.58 km/h @ 5 750 rpm in 6th (Clock 236 km/h)
Fuel Consumption: 6.4 litres / 100 km Claimed (9.2 litres Test Average)
Fuel Tank Size: 45 litres
Fuel Range: 703 km Claimed (489 km on Test)
CO2 Emissions: 148 g/km
Vehicle Odometer: 5 151 Km
Test Temperature: 17 Degrees
Tyres Size: 205/45 R17
Tyres Make: Michelin Primacy 3
Service / Maint Plan: 3 Years / 100 000 Km Maintenance Plan
Warranty: 3 Years / 100 000 Km
Test Date: 17 March 2017
Priced From: R649 900
For more information and latest pricing visit www.citizen.co.za/motoring