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It’s not every day that you get to review one of the best-selling roadsters of all time. That is of course the Mazda MX-5 (also known as the Miata) and if you’re wondering why we’re talking about the MX-5 when we’re supposed to be talking about the Abarth 124 Spider, well, that’s because they’re essentially the same car albeit with subtle differences.
The affair between the Italian and Japanese manufactures began when they formed a partnership in which Fiat took the Mazda MX-5 and built the 124 Spider to pay homage to the 1966 classic. The tri-colored beauty we have with us is the Heritage Edition and sports a stunning combination of white, red, and black hues.
For those of you who may not know what Abarth is, it is essentially what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz. You can say it is Fiat’s fun division. And so, the Abarth 124 is not an ordinary Fiat, it’s an exciting blend of Japanese engineering, Italian design and the performance credentials of an all-out sports car.
On the inside, it looks a lot like the car it is based on but remains simple and functional with everything residing exactly where it should be. To add to the black and red Heritage theme mentioned earlier, you get black and red leather sports seats, black leather on the dashboard and steering wheel with red stitching.
Although the cabin is small, it is packed with features. We’re talking quantities such as nine Bose speakers and since there isn’t space to fit nine speakers, the engineers have fitted two speakers in each of the headrests. Not only is it cool but it also means you’ll be able to hear your tunes extremely clearly whether driving with the roof up or down.
A few other features include heated seats, a 7-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity, built-in navigation, two USB charging ports, and an AUX audio port. But the best feature of all, is its manual soft-top roof that can open and close faster and with a lot less complexity than the fastest automatic roof found on the Ford Mustang.
In terms of driving dynamics, the Abarth shares the Fiat’s 1.4-liter turbo engine but bumps figures up to 170 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque. That’s 30 horsepower more than the Fiat. What’s even more interesting is that even though the Abarth 124 has a much smaller engine than the Mazda’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, it still manages to produce 10 more horsepower and 50 more Nm of torque.
Put it into Sport mode and the Abarth 124 will push all that power through a 6-speed automatic transmission and get you to 100 km/h in 6.8-seconds. The Abarth 124 is all about fun and the feeling you get when driving this rear wheel drive roadster is something not many other cars can offer. To put it into words, the accuracy and feedback you get from the steering wheel only reminds me of driving a go-kart.
Adding to the excitement behind the wheel, the Abarth 124 is fitted with an amazing Record Monza exhaust system that makes the loudest and angriest sound a 1.4-liter engine has ever made. There’s also large Brembo brakes that allow for some extremely spirited driving and a stiff Bilstein sports suspension that keeps body roll to a minimum.
In closing, the Abarth 124 will put a huge smile on your face every time you drive it, but it is not the most practical car you can buy. With the roof up, visibility isn’t great and let’s not joke about it, there’s barely any space to keep your belongings inside the cabin. But you know what? None of that really matters because every time you turn off the ignition and start walking away from the car, you just can’t wait for the moment you’ll start driving it again. And that’s why it’s well worth its AED 140,000 price tag.