Say arrivederci to the basic philosophy of the Mazda MX-5 and ciao to the louder, more powerful and more expensive Abarth 124 Spider priced from $41,990 plus on-roads.
Although still built in Japan, the Abarth near-twin to the latest Mazda roadster attempts to throw softness and subtlety out its open top following the inclusion of quad sports exhausts, Bilstein monotube dampers with thicker anti-roll bar and Brembo brakes as standard.
Rear-wheel drive, a limited-slip differential and choice of six-speed manual or (for $2000 extra) automatic transmissions remain, but the 124 Spider swaps out Mazda’s 118kW/200Nm 2.0-litre atmo four-cylinder for Fiat’s own MultiAir 1.4-litre turbo four.
The result is a stronger 125kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 2500rpm for your extra $2500 over the $39,550 Mazda MX-5 GT – and as with that range topper there’s leather seats (with its own Alcantara accents), touchscreen audio, climate control and 17-inch alloys standard.
With a kerb weight of 1060kg, the 124 Spider is 27kg heavier than the top MX-5 manual, but Fiat still claims 50:50 front/rear weight distribution for the diminutive roadster and its claimed 6.8-second 0-100km/h is a half-second faster than Mazda’s.
There’s also a Sport mode that firms up steering and reduces stability control intervention, which Hiroshima doesn’t offer, while a dual-mode Monza exhaust is optional and promises to add the extra crackle for which the Italian brand is renowned.
What it leaves us with is two very different two-seat, rear-drive roadsters from the same factory: one offering soft, simple fun and the other with extra aggression and hardness. Which is best only time will tell, but the divide is certainly thicker between Mazda and Abarth than, say, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ.
The Abarth 124 Spider starts rolling into local dealerships throughout October, with national driveaway prices of $43,500 manual and $45,500 auto. A 100-unit commemorative launch edition will kick off proceedings with contrast bumper inserts, tow-hook cover, unique mirror caps and ‘1 of 100’ plaque all at no extra cost.