For the performance-loving Australian market, Fiat has said it may not even offer the entry-level 124 Spider, only the hot Abarth version that will undoubtedly be a big step above the MX-5 in price and performance.
“It is going to be a true Abarth,” promised Fiat Australia product manager Aitezaz Khan at the launch of the Abarth 696 Biposto mini-racer in Sydney.
Khan couldn’t confirm that the Abarth 124 Spider will offer more performance than an MX-5 – which in 2.0-litre form will get to 100km/h in around 7.0 seconds – but it is all but assured to at least sound louder and feel faster.
“It is going to be unique in character,” he added.
“All I can say is that if you look at the current range of products and pick some of the features around the product, that’s the sort of experience that we’re going to offer with the 124.
“At this stage I’d say look at the current range and have your opinion on what makes an Abarth unique, that’s exactly what we’re bringing to the 124.”
To us, that means loud, boosty and with hardcore suspension – in direct contrast to the growly but not overly fast, naturally aspirated and kinda soft new Mazda roadster.
Abarth will likely use the MX-5 rear-wheel drive chassis and body and then wrap around its own styling, add its own turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir engine (which makes 140kW and 250Nm in the 695 Biposto) and tune a crackly exhaust. It’s all about making similar parts feel completely different to a Japanese rival.
Khan uses the 695 Biposto as an example of the character we may find in the Abarth 124 Spider, which will certainly reach towards $50,000 and beyond the MX-5 when it lands in Australia in the third quarter of 2016.
“I was talking about the acceleration numbers [for 695 Biposto] and 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds, if you look at that figure on a piece of paper you go ‘yeah, I know many cars that are much faster than that’,” he continued.
“But with these sorts of vehicles it’s the combination of parts. When I first drove it I thought ‘this is going to be a fast hatchback’ but it isn’t, it’s really quick … beyond that [100km/h] it goes manic because the boost kicks in.
“So in performance for us, it’s the all-round experience, it’s the sound … sound is absolutely essential to an Abarth”.