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Test Drive – 2017 Fiat Abarth 124 Spider

Our nominee for Gayest Car of the Year

 

Refined, masculine and elegant product of Italian design and engineering

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By Christian Wardlaw

Fast Facts:

  • Performance-tuned version of new 124 Spider
  • Slight power increase
  • Stiffer suspension
  • Better brakes
  • Louder exhaust
  • Unique design details
  • On sale in Europe in September; U.S. sale is TBD

Introduction
Fiat and Mazda have teamed up to build the revived 124 Spider. Based on the redesigned MX-5 Miata, the Fiat 124 Spider, or “Fiata” as it is sometimes called by the media, has different styling, unique tuning, and the same turbocharged powertrain used in other Fiat models.

At the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, Fiat introduced a new Abarth-tuned version of the 124 Spider. Though unconfirmed for the U.S. market, it is a good bet that this slightly more powerful version of Fiat’s new roadster will make it to the States. Please note that the details below apply to the European version of the car.

Exterior Features
In order to reduce sun glare while driving hard and fast, the Abarth 124 Spider is equipped with a matte-black hood treatment. The same finish is applied to the trunk lid, and this racy Fiat features unique gray paint on the wheels, windshield surround, and roll bars.

Revised front and rear bumper designs and a quad-outlet exhaust also signal that this isn’t your average 124 Spider, and Fiat says this new Abarth model has exclusive LED headlights. Five special paint colors are offered.

Interior Features
Fiat’s debut vehicle in Geneva featured black leather seats with red leather inserts and red steering wheel stitching. Portions of the Abarth 124 Spider’s interior are upholstered in Alcantara in order to improve the sense of quality while reducing sun glare, Fiat says.

Aluminum pedals and an aluminum pedal board also help to distinguish this version of the car, and the driver faces 3-gauge instrumentation with a large, red, centrally positioned tachometer. Each Abarth 124 Spider wears a metal plate noting its production number.

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Optional Features
Fiat confirmed that a touch-screen infotainment system will be optional for the Abarth 124 Spider. Equipped with a 7-in. display, it includes a reversing camera, dual USB ports, and Bluetooth music-streaming capability. Additional upgrades include a navigation system and a Bose premium sound system with headrest speakers.

Adaptive headlights are available for the Abarth 124 Spider, along with light and rain sensors for the headlights. Rain-sensing wipers are also included with this upgrade.

Under the Hood
In addition to different styling from the MX-5 Miata, the Fiat 124 Spider is equipped with the same turbocharged, 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that is used in the Fiat 500 Abarth, 500L, and 500X. It makes 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque in each of those models, but is bumped to 170 horsepower in the new Abarth 124 Spider. Torque remains unchanged.

Acceleration to 60 mph takes about 6.7 seconds, according to Fiat. A 6-speed manual gearbox delivers the power to the rear wheels, and the engine breathes through a Record Monza exhaust system that likely gives the car a distinctive snap, crackle, and pop note. A dual-clutch automated manual transmission is an option for people who cannot—or lack the desire to—operate a clutch pedal, and comes with paddle shifters and a Sport driving mode.

Additionally, the Abarth 124 Spider gets the mechanical limited-slip differential, Brembo braking components, and Bilstein shocks that are either standard or optional on the MX-5 Miata Club, though the shocks are specifically tuned for installation in the Fiat. Stiffer anti-roll bars are also along for the ride.

Safety
Though not a safety characteristic, Fiat notes that the Abarth 124 Spider’s standard stability control system can be shut completely off in order to enjoy tail-out driving on a track. Choose the optional infotainment system and the Abarth 124 Spider offers access to connected services such as automatic collision notification.

Technology
In addition to connected-services technology, the optional infotainment system in the new Abarth 124 Spider can be upgraded with a navigation system and a Bose premium audio system. Headrest speakers are included with the audio upgrade, helping occupants to better hear music when driving with the top down.

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