Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine powers all versions
  • Suitably quick, plus it makes a fantastic sound
  • Manual and automatic gearboxes on offer

Just the one engine on offer

Abarth has kept it simple with the 124 Spider’s engine line-up, the sole option being a 1.4 Turbo Multiair unit producing 170hp and 250Nm of torque. That’s enough punch to give the Abarth 124 Spider spritely, if not blistering performance, taking 6.8 seconds (6.9 for the auto) to get to 62mph. Top speed is a claimed 144mph (142mph for the auto).

The engine itself boasts surprising levels of pulling power, accelerating strongly from low down the rev range. This in turn means there’s little point in revving the 124 Spider right to its rev limiter, with it feeling tighter and more reluctant to meter out power at high engine speeds than the brawny low- and mid-range.

Throttle response is reasonable, but not up there with non-turbocharged options like the Toyota GT86 and Mazda MX-5. All Abarth 124 Spiders benefit from a dual-mode (essentially a quiet setting and a loud setting) Record Monza exhaust that really adds to the occasion of driving the car.

All its burbly-noise is emitted low down in the rev range aside from the occasional loud pop at higher revs. For some, it’ll be reason-enough for buying the car in its own right.

Automatic gearbox option available

As well as the standard six-speed manual gearbox, the Abarth 124 Spider is available with an automatic transmission with the same number of ratios. We haven’t tried the latter option yet, but can say the manual gearbox is one of the best around.

There’s a nice, short gearlever which allows quick, well-weighted changes and a precise, enjoyable action. 

  • Nimble and enjoyable to drive
  • Plenty of grip and stability
  • Far easier to park with the roof down

The Abarth 124’s handling ability is one of its strongest suits. Thanks to its nicely-balanced front-engine rear-wheel drive layout, the Italian roadster feels lithe and agile  – giving the driver confidence to drive it quickly down twisty country roads.

The steering feels positive and accurate and, although not too sharp, has a nice weight to it.

There’s still a reasonable amount of give in the suspension, too,  providing plenty of grip and stable, predictable handling. Enthusiastic drivers may yearn for a slightly sharper and more hardcore experience, but there’s more than enough fun to be had for the majority.

Should the driver be inclined, the Abarth 124 Spider will also let its rear-end slide out in a fun, controllable manner if the weather permits (doing so in the dry is far harder). However, for those who just want to enjoy open top motoring the Abarth is easily capable of driving like a regular family hatchback.

Parking with the roof up can be tricky even with the rear parking sensors. There’s a large blindspot over the driver’s shoulder, plus the long bonnet can be difficult to nudge into spaces. Put the roof (and windows) down, however, and visibility improves dramatically, giving drivers a full 360-degree view of the car and its extremities.

The turning circle is reasonable, plus the car certainly doesn’t physically feel out of place picking its way through busy city streets and small villages. However, just bear in mind that the exhaust is always noisy at low revs, and can draw attention (sometimes unwanted) to the vehicle when driving around town.