Abarth is to Fiat what HSV is to Holden and AMG to Mercedes; an organisation that takes standard cars and turns them into hot sports and/or racing machines. The latest one to come to Australia, the Abarth 124 Spider, is now on a ship downunder and goes on sale on Friday, October 7th.

Carlo Abarth already had a strong background of building racing cars before he set up is own company in Bologna, Italy in 1949. His star sign was Scorpio and he chose a scorpion based badge for his specials. His first tuned Fiat was built in 1951 in a new Abarth factory in Turin. Fiat took over the Abarth organisation in 1971 and became Fiat’s racing department.

Many fast Fiats have been tuned and built by Abarth in the intervening years and the 124 Spider roadster is the latest in a long line of respected cars that are popular in Europe, though still relatively rare in Australia.

Abarth 124 Spider has a complex bloodline; the body was designed in collaboration with Mazda, which eventually resulted in the recently launched MX-5.


Though you can see the similarities in body shape, it comes as no surprise that the Italian Abarth has a more aggressive look than the Japanese Mazda.

Again not a surprise is that the Italian machine has full-on sportscar intentions.

The Abarth 124 Spider’s engine is built in the European Abarth factory, then shipped to Japan for installation in the Spider in the same factory that assembles the MX-5. The Italian engine is a four-cylinder turbocharged 1.4-litre unit producing 125 kW of power at 5500 rpm, and 250 Nm of torque that begins at a relatively low 2500 rpm.

The engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed torque-convertor automatic with paddle-shift overrides.

Acceleration from zero to 100km/h takes only 6.8 seconds.

The turbo-petrol engine is installed behind the front axle so technically the Spider is mid-engined, with all that means in the way of dynamic balance and agility.


As in any pure sportscar the Abarth Spider is driven by the rear wheels. A mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD) sits between the wheels. The suspension of the Abarth 124 Spider has a double-wishbone layout in front and a five-link set up in the rear. Sports suspension is very much part of the package and is based around Bilstein shock absorbers. Brembo brakes are standard.

We are assured the chrome quad-tip sports exhaust makes all the right noises. Even better, it can be upgraded with an optional dual-mode Monza exhaust system.

Abarth 124 Spider has a Sport Mode that changes the calibrations of the engine, automatic transmission, electric power steering and dynamic stability control system.

The Abarth 124 Spider is equipped with sophisticated electronic aids and active safety features. However, when driven on a racetrack, the new 124 Spider lets the driver disengage the electronics to take full control of the machine.

Though we haven’t sampled the sounds and feel of the hot Abarth for ourselves yet, we’ve invited to the media launch in early October and will report back immediately afterwards.

The Abarth 124 Spider will be on sale in all Australian Fiat dealerships, final prices are yet to be announced, but except them to start in the low to mid $40s.

In Europe the car is also sold as a standard model, the Fiat 124 Spider. We are told there are no plans to import it to Australia as the company wants to concentrate on the hot version. Which seems like a logical move, but time will tell…

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.