Abarth 124 Spider front exterior

Abarth 124 Spider review

The Abarth 124 Spider is a sporty two-seat convertible that’s exciting to drive, great to look at and inexpensive to own.

Pros

  • Fast and fun to drive
  • Lots of standard equipment
  • Stylish, high-quality interior

Cons

  • Only two seats
  • The automatic isn’t as much fun as the manual
  • Only one engine option

Summary

“Lots of fun and affordable to own, it appeals to both heart and head.”

The Abarth is an attractive two-seater sports car that gives you wind-in-the-hair thrills and low running costs. Few cars at this price are so much fun to drive.

Abarth is Fiat’s sporty sub-brand and the 124 Spider is based on the Mazda MX-5 as part of a collaboration between the two brands. That means it’s just as enjoyable to drive and promises to be just as reliable. On the outside the 124 Spider has a distinctive retro look and is available in a range of striking colour options, while the interior has a contemporary minimalist design and the latest tech features. There’s space for two plus their luggage, while the roof (on soft-top versions) folds up or down in a matter of seconds.

A turbocharged engine gives you performance to match the 124 Spider’s looks, yet it's also efficient and contributes to low running costs that make this a car that appeals to both your fun and your sensible side.

What's the interior like?

“An appealing blend of classic Italian roadster and modern creature comforts.”

The interior of the Abarth 124 Spider is everything you’d want an Italian roadster to be; cosy, stylish and upmarket. 

You sit low for a true sports car feel and although really tall drivers might find headroom a bit tight with the roof up there’s space for even the longest legs to stretch out. There’s lots of handy storage, including a lockable compartment behind the seats, and although the boot can hold only 140 litres that’s enough for a small suitcase and some squashy bags.

The dashboard is refreshingly simple and easy to use, yet has all the latest tech features and the quality of materials and finish is excellent. There are two versions of the Abarth and both are well-equipped, with a touchscreen infotainment system, part-leather trim and heated seats as standard.

The standard 124 Spider has a cloth roof that can be lowered or raised in a few seconds. It’s not electrically powered (unlike some rivals’ roof mechanisms), but couldn’t be easier to use and there’s not much wind buffeting inside the car with the roof down. GT models have an additional hard-top (carbon-fibre) roof that’s fixed in place but can be unscrewed to allow the folding roof to be used.

What's it like to drive?

“Fun on any journey, with a soundtrack to match.”

The Abarth is so much fun to drive that you’ll look forward to even the shortest journey. Sharp steering and a rear-wheel drive layout give it real agility in corners, while the turbocharged 1.4-litre engine provides plenty of power and the special  ‘Record Monza’ exhaust system sounds fantastic.

Unlike some sports cars, you don’t need to push the Abarth hard to get the best from it. While it’s great fun to drive on a country lane, it’s equally at home cruising along a coastal highway or posing on a promenade. For the most fun, stick with the standard six-speed manual gearbox which is a joy to use. An automatic option is available, but it slows things down a bit.

The suspension provides great control through corners yet it also gives a comfortable ride, so the 124 Spider is just as suited to longer trips. Compact dimensions and standard parking sensors make it easy to drive in traffic and simple to park.

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“Low ownership costs for something so fast and sporty.”

The 124 is a very cost-effective way of getting sports car looks and performance. It costs less than many rivals, while the turbocharged petrol engine achieves an official average fuel economy of 44.1mpg, which is very good for something so fast.

Road tax and insurance costs are competitive and you get a lot of standard equipment for the money.

How reliable and safe is it?

“An Italian car with the reassurance of Japanese engineering.”

Although it wears an Italian badge, the Abarth 124 Spider was built alongside the Mazda MX-5 in Japan. This means you benefit from Japanese build quality and the MX-5’s excellent reputation for reliability. 

While it hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, the Mazda MX-5 was awarded a four-star rating in 2015. The Abarth features upgraded Brembo brakes, electronic stability control and four airbags. Look out for cars with the optional Visibility Pack, which includes LED headlights, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and rear parking sensors.

Which one is best for you?

Best for economy - Abarth 124 Spider

Best for family - N/A

Best for fun - Abarth 124 Spider

 The Abarth 124 Spider was discontinued in the UK in 2019, so there are a limited number of cars to choose from. Each one comes with a high level of standard equipment, so your biggest decision will be the choice of colour. The ‘Turini 1975 White’ paint option does the best job of showcasing the optional black bonnet and boot lid.

Few people opted for the more expensive GT model, which has a hardtop roof and even more standard features.

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