FIAT ABARTH 124

Herald Sun - Motoring - - HEAD TO HEAD -

VALUE

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.

DE­SIGN-TECH

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.

EN­GINE

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

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