Those with good car-nerd memories may recall the Alfa Romeo Arna. This was a Datsun Cherry with an Alfa Romeo badge. It was… not good. The Abarth 124 Spider was a rather more successful Italo-Japanese collaboration. Based on the underpinnings of the fourth-generation ND Mazda MX-5 but with unique styling and Fiat/Abarth mechanicals, the Abarth 124 Spider was the sportier version of the Fiat 124 Spider.
True, it lacks the delicacy and fluidity of the MX-5 in handling terms, but it feels stiffer and more immediate, thanks to Bilstein dampers and firmer springs and anti-roll bars. You also get a mechanical limited-slip differential and Brembo brakes.
Key to the Abarth’s appeal, though, is the punchy, torquey 1.4-litre 170hp MultiAir turbocharged engine, which makes it feel a lot more urgent than the naturally aspirated Mazda. It also comes with a Record Monza exhaust that pops and burbles in a rather pleasing way.
Subtlety is not the Abarth’s strong suit, then, but as a simple, rear-drive two-seat roadster it’s a very appealing car – and rather more rare-groove than the brilliant-but-ubiquitous MX-5.