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Abarth 124 Spider 2016 | new car sales price


The Abarth 124 Spider has finally arrived in Australia to the delight of those who want an affordable Italian sportscar with lots of heritage. Its shape is based on that of the early 1970s Abarth 124 Rally.

However, the hot little Abarth is not quite as Italian as it appears. It shares some of the 'hard' components of the body with Mazda's MX-5 and is made in Japan. The Japanese are renowned for screwing their cars together well so that’s a plus for the Abarth. In any case the Abarth 124 Spider has Italian bits where they matter most, under the bonnet and in the suspension.

There's a solid visual resemblance between this new Abarth 124 Spider and the lovely little 1970s originals. Note the round lights, wide grille and bonnet bulges.

The Abarth 124 Spider's engine is built in the European Abarth factory, then shipped to Japan. It's a four-cylinder turbocharged 1.4-litre unit with 125 kW of power at 5500 rpm, and 250 Nm of torque that begins at a relatively low 2500 rpm.

It hangs on as though it's stuck to the road, changes direction instantly when asked to do so by way of the steering wheel or throttle, and brings frequent smiles to your face.

The engine sits behind the front axle and therefore within the wheelbase – so the Spider is mid-engined, with all that means in the way of dynamic balance and agility. More about the driving in a moment.

The engine sits in front of either a slick six-speed manual gearbox, or or six-speed torque-convertor automatic with paddle-shifters. As in any pure sportscar the Abarth Spider is driven by the rear wheels. A mechanical limited-slip differential is fitted to all 124 Spiders.

Suspension is by double-wishbones at the front and a complex five-link arrangement in the rear. Bilstein shock absorbers and Brembo brakes are standard. The Brembo calipers are painted red to add to the sporting look.

A Sport Mode changes the calibrations of the engine, automatic transmission, electric power steering and stability control system.

We spent a stunning day behind the wheel of several Abarth 124 Spiders on drivers' roads in northern NSW and south east Queensland, followed by several hours at the Norwell Motorplex centre.

The latter is used for various forms of driver training, everything from beginners to V8 Supercars. We track tested the little Italian hotshots with their tops down. Then closed the roofs (which takes all of three seconds!) before moving onto the water soaked skidpan.

On the road handling is brilliant, everything you would expect from a mid-engined Italian sports machine. It hangs on as though it's stuck to the road, changes direction instantly when asked to do so by way of the steering wheel or throttle, and brings frequent smiles to your face.

 The Abarth 124 is surprisingly supple for what it is, it soaks up depressions and lumps, even when the bump stops come into play it retains its equanimity.

The brakes never showed the slightest sign of fading, hardly a surprise in a car that weighs just 1100 kg and that was designed to be driven by crazy Italians.

Yet, the Abarth 124 is surprisingly supple for what it is, it soaks up depressions and lumps, even when the bump stops come into play it retains its equanimity.

At the track the Spider remained controllable until its very high limit is reached, then like a lot of mid-engined cars it gets sideways suddenly and takes a lot to get it straightened up again. Not one for the amateurs...

The Abarth 124 Spider is equipped with sophisticated electronic aids and active safety features. However, when driven on a racetrack, you can disengage the electronics to take full control of the machine. I wouldn't recommend doing this on the road due to the aforementioned beyond-the-limit behaviour just described. 

The Abarth 124 Spider is now on sale at all Australian Fiat dealerships. It's priced at $41,990 or $43,500 driveaway with the manual gearbox and $43,990 ($45,500 driveaway) for the auto.

In Europe the 124 is also sold as a lower cost, slightly less sporting model - the Fiat 124 Spider. FCA (Fiat Chrysler Australia) says there are no plans to import it to Australia as it wants to concentrate on the hot version. However, I did get a 'never-say-never' response from Fiat people when I asked the question.

Click here to see more 2016 Abarth 124 Spider pricing and spec info.

Would you rather throw the 124 Spider around a track, or cruise with the top down? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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