Things would have been much easier for Fiat if the 124 Spider was just a Mazda MX-5 in an Italian suit.
In order to set it apart from its Japanese counterpart, the Italians implemented a few changes, making it longer, wider and lower. They even made it more powerful by stuffing a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo four, good for up to 168 HP.
Still not enough to please a certain ex-Top Gear motoring host. In his recent Sunday Times column, Clarkson explains how Mazda got the sports car recipe exactly right by making an analogy between the concept of a roadster and a poached egg on toast.
It might be confusing at first, but the little model gets praised by the motoring journalist, even though he says it isn’t the kind of car for the hairy chested Alpha male. That’s where the 124 Spider was supposed to come in, but it did not meet JC’s expectations and ended up being called the result of an amateur taxidermy. What’s more, the “Fiata” was described as quieter and less fun than the MX-5, especially as it doesn’t come with a limited-slip diff.
The Abarth variant, on the other hand, probably fixes some the 124 Spider’s issues, including its “soft and wobbly character”, but it’s also pricier. At the end of the day, the MX-5 remains the go-to roadster.