Abarth back with more bite

Abarth back with more bite

JAPAN’S Mount Fuji race track is an odd place to launch an Italian convertible but once you know the story behind the new Abarth 124 Spider, it makes perfect sense.

The Spider rolls off Mazda’s nearby Hiroshima production line and Abarth’s parent company, Fiat, ships its engine and other bits and pieces to Japan for assembly.

It’s a different looking car on the outside but all the hard body points are identical and the interior is pretty much MX-5, right down to the central control screen and dash.

Even the roof latch is the same and so are most of the rear-drive underpinnings, including the multi-link rear suspension.

Abarth, Fiat’s performance arm, puts its own mechanical limited-slip differential under the 124 and shoehorns a 1.4-litre turbo into the engine bay.

The result is that the 124 has comfortably more oomph than the MX-5; 125kW/250Nm compared to 118kW/200Nm in the MX-5 2.0 litre.

The Abarth exhales through quad exhaust tips with a loud Monza exhaust system optionally available.

Fiat has a cheaper variant of the 124 but that won’t come here because the company wants to avoid competing on price with Mazda.

The Abarth version is expected to be priced at about $40,000 plus on-roads, roughly the same as the top-of-the-range MX-5 GT 2.0.

Aside from the different engine and differential, the Abarth has Bilstein dampers, stiffer sway bars and Brembo four-piston front brakes.