The Abarth 124 Spider sports roadster is not only more powerful than its donor car, the Mazda MX-5, it’s more expensive too.
FiatChrysler NZ (FCNZ) has priced the 124 Spider at $52,990 for the six-speed manual and $54,990 for the six-speed auto. The MX-5 sits between $40,995 and $48,995, depending on power output and choice of manual or ‘auto boxes.
Apart from price, the main differences are in the four-cylinder engines. The Abarth gets a 1.4-litre turbocharged unit that pumps out 125kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 2500rpm. The MX-5 comes with Mazda’s SkyActiv units, either a 1.5-litre generating 96kW/150Nm or a 2.0-litre with 118kW/200Nm.
FCNZ chief executive David Smitherman says the Abarth signals the return to New Zealand of one of the most iconic nameplates in motoring, a badge that first appeared in Italy in the late 1940s.
“The 124 Spider has style and offers the perfect blend of performance, handling and road-holding – it is the epitome of everything a sports car should be,” Smitherman said.
The Abarth 124 Spider is the result of a model-sharing agreement made in 2012 between Japan’s Mazda and the Italian/American conglomerate Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
There are other differences to the cars, apart from powertrains. Abarth 124 gets in-house styling changes to the front and rear. There’s a rorty exhaust note, called ‘Record Monza’, and an electronic Sport mode to recalibrate engine mapping, transmission, electric power steering and the dynamic stability control system.
Making the 124 Spider dynamically sharper again, says FCA, is the work Abarth’s engineers have done to the MX-5’s suspension. The double-wishbone front and five-link rear units have been tuned for greater braking and cornering stability.
Also helping to balance dynamics and comfort in the Abarth are stiffened anti-roll bars and bespoke ‘Abarth by Biltstein’ dampers. Brakes are Brembos, with aluminium four-piston front calipers.
The Abarth 124 was originally going to be an Alfa Romeo-badged roadster and built on the MX-5 platform by Mazda at its Hiroshima factory in Japan. But FCA chief, Sergio Marchionne, decided he didn’t want an Alfa built outside of Italy. The Alfa badge was quietly ditched.
Talk then centered around a Fiat 124 Barchetta nameplate, a new version of the roadster built in Italy between 1995 and 2005. Another handle in the mix was the 124 Sport Spider, first penned in the 1960s by Italian styling house Pininfarina. Finally, FCA settled on the Abarth 124 moniker.