By on July 20, 2015

124 Spider_009

Remember earlier this month when Mazda MX-5 Miata program chief, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, said if you wanted to complain about the roadster’s lack of power, you could shove it down the aftermarket hole of your choice? Those were good times, two weeks ago.

It seems Fiat COO Alfredo Altavilla is of a completely different mindset when it comes to their own MX-5-derived 124 Spider, specifically any version of the car wearing a scorpion badge.

“You like performance? There will be an Abarth version [of the 124 Spider],” Altavilla confirmed to AutoExpress.

“Abarth is all about performance, and so I’ve told my team to stop working on colors and trims. Any new version of an Abarth car should deliver some sort of a performance enhancement, otherwise it is useless.”

An Abarth-tuned 124 Spider would complement a “comfortable” base model for the reborn nameplate.

The first Fiat 124 Spiders are expected to arrive in the U.S. next year.

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39 Comments on “Fiat COO: 124 Spider Abarth Will Perform, “Otherwise It Is Useless”...”


  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    So you can have a Miata with some beans and a storied badge, or a Miata that will start every morning, but not both.

    • 0 avatar
      That guy

      That makes it easy. If you want a daily driver, get the Mazda. If you want a (frustrating) weekend toy, get the Fiat.

      • 0 avatar
        Dipstick

        And you base this opinion on some story your uncle told you?

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Or on the truism that when it comes to complexly engineered products, you can have ones that are cheap enough to sell in numbers that allow the bugs to be worked out early in the product lifecycle; or expensive enough that they’ll require a redesign well before they approach anything resembling a genuinely trouble free ownership experience. If Corollas and Camrys exploded at even remotely the same rate as expensive, and well engineered for the species, space shuttles, the average American suburb would make Pearl Harbor look like a nonevent.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I’d put my money on option 3: the Scion version. I’ve wanted a non-convertible Miata forever.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I really don’t get the current Japanese aversion to power in sports cars. I am not generally a MOAR POWAH sort of car nut, but the reality of the US sporty car market seems to be that if it can’t at least (optionally) keep pace with a V6 Camcord (or base Mustang), don’t bother. Or at least the basement dwellers on the Internet would have you think this is a requirement. And in the era of easy turbocharging, there really is no reason not to be at that level. Fiat seems to get this.

    The thought of a Miata-esqe roadster that sounds like a Fiat Abarth makes me all warm and tingly inside… Hopefully the Italians sex it up a bit inside and out to boot.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      Japanese speed limits are set ludicrously low, and their roads are typically quite narrow. That and their car culture is quite different from the HP-centric US car culture.

      • 0 avatar
        sproc

        Based on my extensive experience watching “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” multiple times, your assertion makes no sense.

        But seriously, having lived there, I think you’re spot on.

      • 0 avatar
        djsyndrome

        None of this stopped Japan from producing turbocharged monster cars in the 90s (many of which made a mockery of the 280ps agreement).

        • 0 avatar
          Chan

          That era was unusual in Japan’s overall history of car manufacturing.

          See: 1980s Japanese bubble
          See: 1990s Japanese recession

          • 0 avatar
            ccode81

            Late 90’s was the crazy era, kids on cheaply modified secondhand Skylines and Silvia slipped and bumped into anything possible.
            It hurt both young people’s insurance rate and some marques’ reputation.
            Now a days most makers wants to sell power at high price to matured and insured adults. Perhaps Subaru is an exception though.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Add me to the list of interested parties…providing it looks nothing like the AutoExpress renders. Yikes!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    So now we’ll see for sure who is right: the people who think the lightweight pure Miata is best, or the people who think it would be better with a couple hundred pounds more weight and TURBO POWAH.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      A turbo plus intercooler is not a couple hundred pounds heavier.

      The real question is how many people buy the Miata just for its lightness? I bet most people buy it because its a simple, small, cheap, fun convertible. The lightness is side product of simple and small. If a more powerful version was available I’m sure people would buy it, provided the price was right and the complexity stays low. Of course some purists will avoid the turbo based on principal. But it would sure be nice to have that choice, so hopefully Fiat offers this.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        It’s not just a turbo and intercooler. It’s also heavier driveline components, bigger brakes/wheels/tires, more chassis reinforcement, a bigger radiator for the engine, and likely a stronger transmission and clutch. Remember that every component of the ND was designed to weigh as few grams as possible in the application. I very much doubt that you could add a turbo to a Miata, engineered to OEM specs and designed to be acceptably reliable, for less than a couple hundred pounds or so of extra weight.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          I’m pretty sure the ND is engineered well enough to handle another 50-75 HP without changing anything else aside from maybe more cooling and wider tires. If not then it must a pretty fragile car as is. Maybe they should offer A/C and radio delete to save those extra grams if its truly all about weight.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I think lightweight pure Miata is best, but I don’t think best has that much impact on the market when everything else has ludicrous power.

  • avatar
    Chan

    I don’t see the news here. That’s like Mazda’s COO bragging that the Mazdaspeed3 will have “more performance than the Mazda3, otherwise it’s useless.”

    But with the various versions of infamously naughty Abarth 500 sold worldwide, expectations are relatively high for the eventual Abarth version Roadster.

  • avatar
    pragmatic

    No doubt automatic only.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Somehow the new MX-5 manages a less than 15 second quarter mile, so unless you’re an outright rotten driver, that V6 Camry isn’t going to run away from you.

    And when you get to the twisties, unless the Camry is driven by Baruth on a banzai run to show the world he’s wonderful and should have been selected for Formula 1, it won’t be much of a contest.

    Similarly, if Fiat shove the old familiar 1.4 turbo Abarth unit in the 124, it’s unlikely to be faster than the Mazda. The Abarth car itself only weighs 250 lbs more and has a quarter mile time of well over 15 seconds, then it isn’t going to sprint away.

    The paper warrior war continues on models that actually haven’t been released yet, with no regard to “how” the power is developed, just on theoretical numbers.

    Must be an American thing. GM used to develop Camaros by the numbers, and until the 2010 model, they were still crap to drive to anyone with a feel for subtlety. Kind of like making a premium frozen TV dinner.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      The horsepower war has been a mostly USDM phenomenon.

      In the rest of the world, fuel economy (and other associated operating costs) is an acceptable reason for a small peak power DROP in a new model as long as the driveability is not noticeably worse.

      A V6 Camry has nice power, but it doesn’t have the ECU programming, transmission programming, suspension setup and wheels/tires to put that power to the ground consistently at every turn. The power is only useful for high-speed passing, but the Camry excels in that situation and was developed for a cruising environment. Only American armchair racers use it as a measuring stick for sports cars that are developed to produce reliable performance entering, executing and exiting every directional change.

      Just try getting your Camry to hold 2nd gear in a sweeping turn. If you can even do it at all, I’ll bet it doesn’t make you smile.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        Let’s also not forget that 275-300 seems to be the sweet spot for road cars. Anything more is just wasted, except on track days. My old Evo VIII was already a little too quick to wring out on public roads and that car might as well be an Altima now.

        • 0 avatar
          Chan

          Completely agree. Just under 300 hp is my ideal sports car power level. I have a car with nearly 400 hp and it’s too much power for fun at legal speeds–especially without any form of traction or ESC.

          On the other hand, the car it replaced had 245 hp and left me wanting just a little more power for my favourite mountain roads.

          I can, however, understand that for people who live in rural or “exurban” areas with wide, straight, empty roads, horsepower is a big deal as it may be the only way to have fun.

          The Evo must have felt foolproof with its crazy AWD setup!

      • 0 avatar
        Counterpoint

        No one driving a “sports car” getting passed by a Camry is smiling. Slow sports cars might have been acceptable 30 years ago but the market has moved on and now they’re just pathetic.

        • 0 avatar
          Chan

          I get passed by 6-cyl and 4-cyl Camrys all the time in my 400hp sports car. It’s on the boring highway where I don’t care to be faster. I’m still smiling, and so are all of my friends who are 200 hp FR-S/BRZ owners.

          I may smile harder because my car is more in line with childhood dreams, but in the end I can’t use that 400hp freely without going to jail/hospital/morgue. I consider that a disadvantage against lower-HP cars that can be hooned closer to their limits on public roads.

          There is a sweet HP spot for driving fun. Less than that is not a big deal; you can simply push harder. More than that requires a track or a death wish.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      Bullogna… sub 7seconds 0 to 60 and very low 15s for any 500 Abarth driver who knows how to launch.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        And ultimately, the Abarth is traction limited more than anything else. With the same weight and horsepower it would be notably faster if it was RWD. The car is much quicker than the acceleration times would make you think in the midrange.

        But more than anything else, it is just stupid fun. I sure do miss mine. I can’t help but see a convertible version in my future. Maybe it is time to replace the old Spitfire with something modern.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          I’m lovin’ my ’12 Abarth… can’t see ever parting with it. My son bought a GQ Cabrio that has the Abarth drivetrain but softer suspension and he loves it, as well.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            If I’d had the room to store it I would have kept mine.

            Don’t you find the prognostications of all the idiots on here who have never owned an Italian car hilarious? Mine was the only new car I, or any of my friends and family have ever owned that had absolutely NO warranty claims in the time I had it.

            It’s not 1975, and realistically 3/4 of the issues with all European cars in those days was due to idiot American mechanics who had no idea how to work on anything more sophisticated than a small block Chevy.

          • 0 avatar
            jconli1

            The 500s are a riot, and despite routine showings at the bottom of JD Power lists, the issues all seem to be basic squeak/rattle kinds of things. The Multiair engines have long since proven themselves, so the inevitable jokes say more about the teller than the tellee.

            FWIW – the GQ is an Abarth trim level – so drivetrain and suspension are the same as the Abarth Cabrio, which is slightly softer sprung than the Abarth coupe.

            The GQ is the ultimate sleeper if you’re into that sort of thing (I am). All the Abarth hustle but none of the telltale badging and flash. It has the dual exhaust and full Abarth power output, but a small muffler and “classier” (it’s relative) interior trim.

            Many customers (and dealers) didn’t understand what the GQ was, so they are often able to had for incredible discounts. I just picked up a 2014 with 80 miles on it for $16,500… stickered for $12k more.

            I think the 500’s MSRP is what turns a lot of the commentariat off, but I’ve never heard of one going for sticker.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    I don’t see why this is at all contentious. When Mazda makes a Mazdaspeed Miata — which they have in the past — it comes with plenty of beans.

    A 124 without tons of horsepower is fine. An Abarth without more juice would be useless. Just like the man said.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    Faster, please. I’ll be buying the Abarth version as soon as it’s available.

  • avatar

    Okay, I’m not sure if everybody does it or not, but what is the deal with watermarking an already watermarked photo? I mean, you can get the photo without the TTAC watermark on it by going to the first watermark site, presumably, or is that enough of a hindrance to lazy autobloggers that it stops them from stealing the photo from your site?

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    It would be one thing if both the Miata and the new Fiat 124 will be the exact same price with the exact same equipment. However, they won’t. Consider that Fiat has to pay Mazda to build it. So Mazda has to make some money off that. Then Fiat has to package the product so that customers are willing to pay more for it. The easiest way is for the Fiat version to be a little faster.

    There’s not that much to debate here. It goes back to the old adage… “Well son, how fast do you want to go? That depends on how much you want to spend.”

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    I’m missing an Axis of evil joke somewhere.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    I’d take the smarter choice with Mazda. Yamamoto-san has shown brain power and logic works exceptionally well. Fiat may have more muscle but they lack quite a bit of brains, as seen in their product line.

    • 0 avatar
      Chan

      Fiat does things the way Italy does things–slightly irrationally but very charmingly.

      Several aspects stand out in Italian cars–mainly the sensory assault of style, performance and sound–at the expense of others like practical design and reliability engineering. Fiat also has some innovative technologies (such as Multiair hydraulic system replacing a DOHC engine’s mechanical intake cam) that can be left of mainstream. Their method of maximising interior space has also produced some strange results (see Multipla, 500L).

      In segments that sell on performance and an emotional connection to the car, Italian cars have a strong appeal. In segments that sell on reliability, Fiat has trouble competing.

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