A Ragno Ragtop – Fiat 124 Spider Review

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth review New Zealand

Fiat 124 Spider Review New Zealand

The Tarantula Wolf Spider (Lycosa tarantula ragno) is a spider native to Italy and in particular in the Apulia region towards the South West. It’s particularly active at night, possesses great vision and is very quick. With its roots based firmly from the Northern end of Italy comes another Spider, it too is quick, but thankfully is far less hairy and one that I much prefer playing with.

I’m talking, of course, about the 124 Spider Abarth, the two-seated member of the Fiat family, a sports car that with its Italian style and poise has people running towards it rather than away.

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth review New Zealand

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front, the 124 Spider is essentially underpinned by the Japanese. Core things like its chassis and wiring looms are from the Mazda MX-5 and I have actually seen them being manufactured alongside the Mazda in Hiroshima. But and it really is a big BUT, it’s not just the cosmetics that makes this feel like a totally different animal.

Although they share the same unibody and wheelbase, the Fiat 124 Spider has its own set of springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Under the bonnet sits a 1.4L turbocharged engine that produces 125kW of power and 250Nm of torque, and when strapped to (in my case) a 6-speed manual box that’s tighter than my father’s grip on his wallet, achieves a 0-100km/h time of under 7s with a top speed of 232km/h. Unfortunately I didn’t get to test its top speed, but when you’re so low to the ground, 100km/h seems very quick.

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth review New Zealand

The 124’s styling gives a giant nod to its 124 nameplate born in the late 60’s. The long sculpted nose, grille shape, headlight cutouts, pronounced lines and broad haunches are eye-catching to say the least and made even moreso with 17-inch alloys, Brembo brakes, sports exhaust with quad tailpipes and bright yellow Abarth badges.

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth review New Zealand

The cabin has a familiar feel to those that have been behind the wheel of an MX, however the instrument cluster makes more of an emphasis of the rev counter and there are a number of sports car attributes such as the red viewfinder on the steering wheel (to ensure you know which way your wheels are pointing) and leather Abarth sports seats.  

Without the room to take the whole family for a ride, it was down to just my eight-year-old son and to handle the review, just quietly, he was delighted. We, in fact, he dropped the top (it’s really that simple) and we headed for the hills – heaters on full blast of course.

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth review New Zealand

The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth has a lovely note to it when pushed way up the rev range. Thanks to a fairly narrow gate, gear selection is neat and short which adds to its 2-seater sports car attraction. Handling is quite precise but will waggle its tail with traction off and in Sport mode. Road and wind noise is of course ever present (even with the top up), but this is easily overshone by the thrill of the open air ride.

We literally emptied the tank exploring the North Shore of Auckland, which actually took some doing as it boasts 6.7L/100km economy. We cruised the coastline with the spring sun shining down on our faces and darted around the countryside, tunes on load mainly with a heavy foot on the accelerator. Convertible driving really does come with a huge dollop of freedom.

Fiat 124 Spider Abarth review New Zealand

If you are single or a couple, I’m certain you could use the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth as your daily driver. With a couple of cup holders, a reversing camera, a reasonable sized boot and an equally unreasonably small storage area in the cabin, there is a hint of practicality to it, however, I can’t help but think that if it was sitting outside my workplace, I would spend a lot of my day staring out of the window at it, simply longing for the weekend.

This is one spider that would win over the most ardent of arachnophobic.

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