New Abarth 124 GT 2018 review

The Abarth 124 is a harder, faster version of Fiat’s delicate 124 Spider. This new GT version aims to offer even more driver appeal – but it comes at a price.

The three additional elements of the GT package comprise a carbon fibre hard top, some lighter alloy wheels, and a more powerful Bose stereo. The hard top also acts as a giant bracing bar to the 124’s overall structure, providing additional rigidity to the benefit of handling and refinement.

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Exactly how much more rigidity, Abarth won’t say, but it does add 16kg to the weight of the car. The extra mass is essentially offset by the lighter wheels, though, which each weigh 4kg less despite using the same Bridgestone tyres.

The original canvas roof sits in the collapsed position when the hard top is fitted, and we’re told (although weren’t allowed to attempt it) that it’s easy to lift off – requiring the removal of just five screws. While we’re assured it’s no big job, this clearly isn’t something an owner is going to do every day.

Otherwise, the 124 is unchanged, and that includes the settings for the suspension, engine and gearbox. The fiesty little turbocharged engine produces 168bhp and propels the car from rest to 62mph in 6.8 seconds. Flat out you’ll be doing 144mph.

On smooth roads and at normal speeds, that increase is rigidity isn’t immediately obvious. Push the car harder through the corners and the steering feels perhaps a little more accurate, and a glance at the rear view mirror reveals that it doesn’t shudder in quite the same way as the standard car when hitting a mid-corner bump. The normal Abarth 124, like the Mazda MX-5 on which it is based, can suffer from shakes to the structure – so any improvement in this regard is welcome. But how much of the dynamic improvement is attributable to the hard top, and how much to the lighter wheels, is impossible to say.

On the downside, the hard top fitted to our car creaked and rattled almost constantly, and it seems to suffer more wind noise than the standard car does with its canvas roof raised. At least when you’re driving hard, the gurgle of the sports exhaust is usually enough to drown out any other noises; it’s raucous, but good fun.

In other respects, the GT drives in the same way as the conventional Abarth 124. There’s the same punchy acceleration, the same delightfully slick gear change, and a chassis that’s more fun than it is polished. The ride is firm, but there’s plenty of inherent agility.

The cabin is fairly hopeless for taller drivers, but it’s well equipped. The retro colour schemes for the exterior are certainly evocative, and it’s not too expensive to run, either.

Abarth UK doesn’t have prices for the GT just yet, but we expect the extra kit to command a 10 per cent premium when cars arrive in showrooms in May. That feels expensive, but Fiat should present some tempting finance offers to sweeten the deal.

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