The Abarth 124 Spider is what you might call ‘a bit of a giggle’. Most Mazda MX-5 owners would have a lot of fun in one for an afternoon, we suspect, hut then would probably be quite happy to swap their car keys back. Compared with the Japanese sporting icon from which it is sprung, it is a little noisy, harsh, gauche and trying.
But the Abarth 124 Spider is far from a failure. Abarth’s mission with this car must rightly have been to claim territory that the Mazda has never managed to secure: to convince petrolheads that a cloth-topped two-seater could feel as focused and hardcore as a really specialised £30,000 hot hatchback. In that mission, the Abarth does remarkably well.
This 124 Spider is more of a niche proposition than its fiat or Mazda sister cars. You can understand why Mazda has never explored this tangent itself, given how hard this cars suspension seems to make its body structure work at times. But it’s a sports car that gives up its dynamic entertainment value even more easily than an MX-5 and that is quite a claim to fame. Ultimately, we like its chutzpah but prefer the Mazda as a pure driver’s car.