What is it?
Impossible, I think, not to approach Abarth’s prototype version of the Fiat 124 Spider without some trepidation. Fiat’s in-house tuner hasn’t always made a brilliant job of fettling Fiat products; the notion of what it might do to a light-weight, lightly powered and just plain lovely Japanese roadster is an ominous thought.
Abarth prefers not to mention the M-word, and – to cut their engineers some slack – that’s probably fair enough. After all, it’s not for them to reason why when Fiat hands them a car; their job is not to construct platforms, but to improve what’s already there. Accordingly, their Spider was developed alongside the Fiat version – but always as a separate entity from it.
To that end, the wick of the same turbocharged 1.4-litre Multiair engine has been turned up, rendering 168bhp where previously there was only 138bhp. The torque rises modestly, too, to 184lb ft, and peaks very slightly later (although both are significantly different to the naturally aspirated engine found in the MX-5).
More importantly, the Abarth version gets the mechanical limited-slip differential missing from the cooking Fiat model, and while it shares the Spider’s basic suspension, it sports Bilstein dampers, not to mention its own specific tune of anti-roll bar and spring rates. Under the arches are 17in alloys, shod in Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres (uprated from S001s on the regular 124), and it's stopped by Brembo four-piston brakes at the front.