Firmer, flatter, noisier, more straightforward and perhaps a touch more accessible and instantly compelling – although also a bit less likely to hold your attention over the long term.
That’s how you’d characterise the driving experience of the Abarth 124 Spider to an MX-5 owner who was intrigued enough to wonder what an Italian factory tuner might make of his or her favourite two-seater.
It’s the suspension’s firmness, the added jostle and fidget to the car’s ride, that you notice first.
Over gentler bumps at higher speeds, the Abarth feels pretty supple, but the difference in the compression settings of its dampers between low and high-frequency inputs is stark.
Over broken surfaces and sharp edges, the Abarth’s suspension feels quite coarse and wooden. The forces the suspension can transmit into a body structure that seldom shows the slightest sign of stress in other applications are enough to set up noticeable shudder and shake from the scuttle at times here.
So what’s the payback? Well, the Abarth has excellent hunkered-down body control and very smart handling response, as well as stronger outright grip levels than any factory-produced MX-5, which would make it usefully quicker than the Mazda around a lap of a circuit.
It also offers more accessible rear-wheel-drive handling adjustability than either its Mazda or Fiat sibling thanks to all that torque at medium revs, and the addition of the limited-slip differential.