First Drive Review 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth: More bark, more bite

 

(FCA)

(FCA)

A few months back Fiat sent me the new 124 Spider.  I learned that there is finally a Fiat that I really liked.

However, there was a problem.

For all the goodness that came with the reintroduction of an iconic Italian sportscar, there seemed very little bite, and certainly no bark.  The 124 Lusso I had for my week was attractive, the one handed operation of the top was great, and although made in Japan on a Mazda Miata platform, enough of an Italian design to make it different.

On the road though, there was very little to fall in love with. Sure the 1.4 liter turbocharged engine with 160 horses gets the job down, but there seemed to extra “umph” no loud chorus emanating from the exhaust, in short no real “sport”.

Fiat heard my mournful cries from the automotive wilderness so send me something in the Spider lineup with a bit more bite, and a whole lot more bark.

As a reminder, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider has three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and Abarth. A limited Prima Edizione version is also available, but there is only 124 units (see what they did there?).

The base Classica has such standard features like LED taillights, AC, full power accessories, cruise control, push button starter, Bluetooth, a leather wrapped steering wheel, and shift knob, and a 3-inch display, all set atop 16-inch wheels.

You can get a Technology package (Collections in Fiat-speak), that adds keyless door locks, rearview camera, a 7-inch touchscreen and an HD radio.

The Lusso adds leather upholstery, heated seats, and all the contents of the Technology collection, along with automatic headlights, climate control, and automatic wipers on top of 17-inch wheels.

My tester for this go-around was the top of the line Abarth. The Abarth  adds some special exterior and interior trim pieces, quad exhaust tips connected to a slightly more open exhaust  system that increases the horsepower to 164 up from 160. The trim options include a flat black hood and trunk lid, and there are microfiber inserts for the seats.  In addition there is some things not found on the other models  including a limited-slip rear differential, a sport-tuned suspension, and adjustable driving modes. Brembo brakes and full leather or leather/simulated suede upholstery are optional.

For the Lusso and Abarth, two collections are available. The Safety and Comfort package adds such things as a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. For the Lusso the Premium collection and for the Abarth the Luxury collection, adds LED adaptive headlights, LED running lights, a navigation system, and a satellite radio with a nine-speaker Bose audio system

(FCA)

(FCA)

So did the Abarth upgrades make a difference?  Yes, yes they did.

The differences aren’t really in the appearance.  There are the scorpion badges, and my Abarth for the week did not have the flat black hood and rear decklid (history says the hood was flat black on the racers in order to cut down on glare).  I would liked to have seen the flat black hood, but no matter. The Recaro racing seats and red accented stitching were different, but the nice one handed top down operation was still there as were the well place controls, except for the radio volume button which is on the center console just forward of the center armrest, a bit annoying.

The real differences began the moment the engine was fired up. Instead of the soft sound of the last model, the Abarth announces its presence like a barking bulldog.  It’s not unpleasantly loud however.  This Abarth model also had the optional automatic transmission, unlike the manual I had before.  Shame. A true sportscar needs a manual shift, but I was without one. Nevertheless, there were paddle shifters.

On the road, the Abarth seems to have that little extra the other was missing.  The limited slip diff really seemed to allow the Spider to respond quicker, and “braaap” from the exhaust that announced shifts was definitely something missing from the others.

The Spider 124 is a good car; the Abarth makes it even better.  It adds the elements missing from the other models and makes the Spider the true sportscar it really is.

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
MSRP: $28,195
MSRP (as tested): $31,735
Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 164 hp @5500 rpm, 184 lb-ft torque @2500 rpm (sport mode)
Transmission:  6-speed automatic
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 25 city, 36 highway, 29 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions ): 27 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 2476

Exterior Dimensions (In)
Wheelbase: 90.9
Length, Overall: 159.6
Width, Max w/o mirrors: 68.5
Height, Overall: 48.5
Track Width, Front: 58.9
Track Width, Rear: 59.1

Interior Dimensions (In)
Seating Capacity — Front 2
Head Room 37.4
Legroom 43.1
Shoulder Room 52.1
Hip Room 52.0
Cargo Area Dimensions
Trunk Volume: 4.9

Warranty
Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 12 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 4 Years/Unlimited Miles

All specs can be found here (PDF)

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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.

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