If the Mazda MX-5 doesn’t exude enough ‘passion’ for you then its quasi-Italian sister – the new Abarth 124 Spider – might be right up your strada. Launched to the South African market today, these are the five most important things you need to know about it:
1. It’s made in Japan
Yep, in case you didn’t already know it, the Abarth 124 Spider is built at a Mazda plant in Hiroshima. So then it should come as no surprise to hear that it shares exactly the same platform as the new Mazda MX-5 that was launched here last year. This is excellent news as the MX-5 is a bloody fine piece of driving equipment. To give the Abarth a slightly different personality out on the road the engineers equipped it with different springs, anti-roll bars and springs.
2: It’s turbocharged
While the Mazda MX-5 makes do with a normally aspirated, 118-kilowatt 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine the Abarth 124 Spider gets a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-pot that kicks out 125-kilowatts and 250Nm. With a feathery kerb weight of 1 060kg the Spider will hit 100km/h in 6.8-seconds – that’s 0.5-seconds faster than the Mazda. Top speed is a claimed 232km/h – 18km/h more than its normally aspirated sibling.
3: It’s manual
Unlike the ‘purist’ Alfa Romeo 4C the Abarth 124 Spider doesn’t come wedded to a godawful twin clutch transmission. Instead it ships only with a good old-fashioned six-speed manual gearbox. Nice. There’s also a proper mechanical limited-slip differential present to maximise traction through tight corners. And, of course, to help you get your drift on when conditions allow.
4: It has a fancy, switchable exhaust system
Like on other Abarth products the 124 Spider features a Record Monza quad-tailpipe sports exhaust system that modifies the path of exhaust gasses at higher engine speeds. This helps produce a deeper and more growly exhaust note when you’re really pushing on. This sonic bravado can be amplified further when you choose to stow the manually-operated cloth top behind the seats. Why manual? Because manual is lighter and lighter equals faster. That’s why.
5: It’s a little on the expensive side
At R649 900 the Abarth 124 Spider costs exactly R208 200 more than the Mazda MX-5. That’s a sizable chunk of change. Worth it? I’ll actually have to drive one in order to to tell you. So for the time being the jury is out. – Thomas Falkiner