After getting a taste of the Lusso version last year and naming it our favorite car of 2016 we finally got a chance to savor the Abarth version. The 124 Spider Abarth gets a small bump in power over the lesser models putting out 164 hp @ 5500 rpm and 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm. The Fiat 124 Spider gets pretty stiff suspension in Classico and Lusso flavors but the Abarth’s tuning is the most aggressive among them. The Abarth adds Bilstein dampers, bigger wheels 17 inch wheels with grippier tires, a throatier exhaust system,with quad exhaust, Brembo brakes and Recaro sport seats.
Not forgetting though is that the Abarth gets a limited-slip differential over the standard Fiats which is a recipe for a tail-sliding grin fest. An LSD in a small, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car is a recipe for huge fun. Finally the Abarth has a Sport switch makes the throttle feel more immediate, adds a tad more weight to the steering and slackens off the ESP and traction control. The exhaust isn’t quite as obnoxious as it is in the Fiat 500, which scared a few pedestrians in the week we had it but it doesn’t matter here, with the top down the aural sensations are a pure delight.
When FCA delivered us the 2017 Fiat Spider Abarth, we thought there had been a mistake as the hood was not matte black as we had expected. The car was completed covered in Gelato White paint. On closer inspection we noticed the scorpion on the trunk, all was well. I actually prefer the solid color paint, instead of the matte black hood. The Abarth along with the other 124’s are unahsamably retro but I prefer the look to the very Japanase Miata.
On The Road
It’s nothing short of a grin fest at any speed. I spent the whole week with the top down, even on colder San Diego mornings, and the very good heated seats kept me nice and toasty. The 6 speed is a joy to use, short throws and fairly precise, if a little heavy. You need to take it by the scruff of the neck and drive it, which is the way it should be. The first thing you notice as you drive down the in the Abarth, is that the body structure feels taught and more rigid than the other Fiats, why? ….the Abarth gets a strut brace to strengthen the body and stop any resonance and twist. It works but isn’t as solid as other heavier soft tops. The suspension allows for more body roll than expected but it is not an issue and push hard out of a low speed corner and the back end will kick out in a beautifully controlled manner. Yes, there is some turbo lag but it isn’t nearly as big an issue as some have pointed out. As a daily driver this is the most enjoyable car to drive without breaking the speed limit.
We strapped on the test gear and recorded a 0-60 time of 6.5 secs, not super fast, a Golf GTI will out accelerate it, but this is not what the Fiat 124 Abarth is all about. Take it up to the mountains and seek out some twisty roads because this is where this car comes alive. You won’t need the radio, besides you can hardly hear it at speed, instead simply drive with a purpose and you become totally engaged with this car. It’s a precise, purposeful, driver’s car. Top down the sound of the engine improves, and you hear the turbo whine as it spools up, then you grab the next gear. Sensational! Wind is mitigated by a small screen behind the seats that cuts the breeze flowing into the driver compartment.
The Fiat and the Miata are fairly similar inside, room is tight for larger occupants, and the cup holders are a bit wobbly, I had to reach and grab my wayward coffee cup a couple of times when getting into a corner too fast. There is a small cubby between the seats so I put the cup holder sin there. Forget the coffee and just drive. Better than getting 1st degree burns from your latte. With no rear seat space and annoyingly no telescoping steering wheel it took a few adjustments to get an ideal seat position, but once I did it’s pretty comfortable. Fiat changed the gauges slightly, added a few soft-touch materials, added new door panels, and on the whole fit and finish is pretty good. The roof mechanism is delightfully simple and easy to use. I only put it up once all week, due to rain so it’s as easy as a simple reach back, pull over your head and click into place. Perfect.
I ran more errands in the week I had the Fiat than in any other car. Forgot something at the grocery store, “I’ll go” and I did. Any excuse it didn’t matter I just wanted to be driving the Fiat. I’ve driven some pretty good cars in my time but I have to say this little Fiat 124 Abarth has been one of my favorites. I still can’t wipe the grin off my face. Go get one……you won’t regret it.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth Numbers
|Vehicle Type:||Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible|
|As Tested Price:||$29,190|
|Engine:||Turbocharged and intercooled SOHC 16-valve inline-4|
|Power:||164 hp @ 5500 rpm|
|Torque:||184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm|
|Curb weight:||2,436 lb|
|Zero to 60 mph:||6.5 sec|
|Top speed:||130 mph|
|EPA city/highway driving:||25/29/36 mpg|
|Our Observed Fuel Economy:||23 mpg|
|Pros||Superb fun at any speed, great engine, excellent handling|
|Cons||Wobbly cup holders|