FIAT ABARTH 124
There are fewer creature comforts than the Mazda but more performance-focused extras. It lacks the Mazda’s satnav and leather trim but has a sports button that alters the car’s throttle, steering and stability control threshold. It also has Brembo brakes, Bilstein shock absorbers and more powerful turbo engine. Metallic paint costs $490. Servicing costs $1300 over three years.
More masculine looking with a stub nose and a wide honeycomb grille. Only the windscreen and canvas roof are shared. The quad exhaust, gunmetal wheels and red Brembo calipers bring a sportier look. From the driver’s seat it looks like a Mazda — the only changes are a thicker steering wheel rim, a different gear shifter and a sportier speedo and tacho design.
The Abarth has just 7kW more but feels sharper off the mark thanks to an extra 50Nm. Peak torque from a low 2500rpm means you can exploit the performance more regularly than the MX-5 and drive out of corners in lower gears. Uses a little less fuel at 6.5L/100km. The exhaust note is slightly more appealing. Fiat claims a halfsecond advantage in the 0-100km/h sprint.
Not crash tested but should match the Mazda. Optional pack includes adaptive headlights, blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic detection and parking sensors. Standard reversing camera.
Stiffer suspension transmits bumps and thumps on pockmarked roads. The trade-off is sharper cornering. Brakes have plenty of bite — and little fade — for track work, while the sports button changes the character of the car. An $1895 Monza exhaust package — available soon — gives it a soundtrack to match the driving thrills.
$41,990+ 19.5pts VERDICT A case of original isn’t always best. The Mazda is a great car but the Abarth ups the ante with a sportier bent.