The last time I drove a FIAT vehicle, it was the oddly rewarding 2016 FIAT 500C Abarth. This time around, I’m in a different droptop Abarth model, the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth. Although it was developed alongside the current ND Mazda MX-5 Miata, FIAT made sure to give the 124 Spider a unique character with retro-inspired styling, exclusive chassis tuning and, of course, a turbocharged engine. This car takes the best attributes from the Miata and FIAT 500 Abarth and combines them into one. So what’s it like to drive? We spent a week in this beautiful 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth to find out.
2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth Exterior
Casual observers probably won’t be able to notice ties between the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth and the Miata, and that’s because FIAT handled its own exterior design. The styling is inspired by the original 124 Spider and is almost completely unique to FIAT with the exception of the door handles, convertible top and windshield frame. The design changes result in a body that is 5.5 inches longer than the Miata but still has the perfect dimensions of a classic European roadster.
The face of the 124 Spider is defined by the rounded headlights, which are a throwback to FIAT’s classic roadster, and this tester had the optional Visibility Group package ($995) that added adaptive LED headlights with a stylish LED illuminated ring used for daytime running lights. The long scalloped hood adds a sporty touch, while the Abarth gets a unique front fascia with reshaped faux air vents under the headlights and functional air vents in front of the wheel openings. Similarly, the rear of the 124 Spider has rectangular-shaped LED taillights similar to the original car, and the Abarth adds a sporty and modern look with its functional vents and quad exhaust outlets. All 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth roadsters come with 17-inch gun metallic alloy wheels, and this tester came in the new-for-2018 Grigio Chiaro (silver metallic) paint hue.
2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth Interior
While the Miata and 124 Spider share little on the outside, their cabins are almost identical. The only major difference is that FIAT redesigned the door panels with proper pull handles and added padding along the top edge. And that’s about the only improvement the Miata really needed as this interior is perfectly suited for car focused on driving pleasure. Going for the Abarth model brings a sporty interior with heated seats wrapped in leather with microfiber inserts. This trim level also gets a large, red-faced tachometer centered in the gauge cluster as well as red accent stitching on the seats, steering wheel and instrument panel.
Even though it’s a small car, the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth has decent room for passengers. Of course, if you’re too tall, just drop the top! This easy-to-use manual cloth top takes seconds to raise or lower, and it can be operated with just one hand. Cargo space is a different story, though, with the 124 Spider offering 4.94 cubic feet of cargo space – the extra decimal point makes it seem like FIAT wants us to just round up to an even 5 cubic feet here.
2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth Powertrain
If there is one reason to choose the FIAT over the Miata, it’s the engine. Along with the exterior design, the major contribution made by FIAT was the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder with the Abarth having an output of 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque – this is only a 4 hp increase over the standard 124 Spider but it’s 9 more hp and 36 more lb-ft than the Miata. Sadly, you don’t really feel the added output since this 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth (with the automatic transmission) weighs 2,516 pounds; that’s 135 pounds more than a comparably equipped Miata and about 70 pounds more than the hard-top Miata RF.
Yes, you read that correctly – this car is available with an automatic. While the manual transmission is definitely the way to go on a sporty little roadster like the 124 Spider, the six-speed automatic transmission (a $1,350 option) is still plenty of fun. It is perfectly tuned for this car, and the manual shift mode with paddle shifters helps keep the revs up and the turbo lag to a minimal. The two-pedal Abarth also has a Sport mode button to get the most out of this setup. With this transmission, the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth returns EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway**.
In terms of the driving experience, the Abarth is set up similar to the Miata’s track-oriented Club trim level including the front strut tower brace and limited slip differential. The suspension tuning is also unique to the Abarth trim level with front and rear Bilstein sport suspension for a sportier, more responsive driving experience. Drivers ready to hit the track should also opt for the $1,495 Brembo braking system, which is only offered on the Abarth model and adds performance-tuned brakes with red calipers. Finally, if you like how the FIAT 500 Abarth sounds, you’re going to love the 124 Spider Abarth’s raspy exhaust note.
2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth Safety
The 2018 FIAT 124 Spider has yet to be tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but this small roadster comes with a full array of standard safety features. This includes front and side airbags, electronic stability control, Enhanced Accident Response System and, on the Lusso and Abarth trim levels, a backup camera. This tester also came with the $1,495 Comfort and Convenience Group that brings additional safety features like Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, ParkSense rear parking assist system, security alarm, rear view mirror and heated, auto-dimming door mirrors.
2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth Overall
More than just a redesigned Miata, the FIAT 124 Spider is a fitting successor to FIAT’s classic roadster, and the sport-tuned Abarth is the ultimate expression of this car’s performance. Whether you’re looking for a fun daily driver or a weekend toy, you’re probably not going to find a car that offers as much unadulterated driving pleasure as the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider Abarth.
The 2018 FIAT 124 Spider is offered in three trim levels (Classica, Lusso and Abarth) with a starting price of $24,995*. Moving up to the sportier Abarth model will cost you at least $28,195*, and even with all the bells and whistles, you can still get a lot out of this roadster for not a lot of money as proof by this car’s as-tested price of $34,525.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation FIAT dealership and test drive the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.