Abarth 124 Spider: PH Fleet

With the Abarth soon set to depart from the PH fleet, various members of the team have been scrabbling for the keys to have one last go in the little roadster. I, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to spend the Christmas break and most of January in it.

During the cold snap over Christmas, the windows froze over, preventing them from dropping the centimetre or two necessary to open the door, and the wing mirrors never managed to completely defrost, leaving the centre completely frozen. Luckily, though, I never experienced any of the technological gremlins that Matt spoke about in his last update, although the infotainment system did get a little confused, refusing to output a voice call to the headrest speakers whilst Waze continued to blurt out directions through the door units.

Driving out through the Surrey hills on a quiet morning, those foibles cease to matter. The car keeps you entertained, scrabbling for grip on its skinny tyres, the exhaust pops and bangs on the over run and the sense of speed is enhanced by your low seating position, with only what is really needed to hand. On which point, I fully agree with Matt that the interior in the 124 is functional and snug, but I can't get over the fact that Abarth decided that Alcantara would be better suited to the dashboard than parts of the steering wheel...

And that idea of going for an early drive in the Abarth is great, until you need to start up on a quiet street. The noise that comes from the Monza exhaust somewhat reminiscent of a yacht idling at its berth, just burbling away. In an ideal world, the exhaust system would be connected to the Sport button so that the full baritone notes are unleashed only in conjunction with the improved throttle response, allowing Normal to keep the exhaust muted to a more sociable level.

All in all, this may seem a somewhat negative reflection for a car we've so enjoyed, but the fact is that so much pleasure can be derived from driving the Abarth, even on mundane journeys, that the little niggles are what start to really play on the mind. Despite those minor irritations, however, the Abarth is certainly a car that will be remembered fondly once it's gone back.

 2017 Abarth 124 Spider
On fleet since: August 2017
Mileage: 15,367 miles (delivered on 8,858)
List price new: £29,565 (As tested £32,210 comprising £600 for Portogallo 1974 Grey paint, £1,250 for Visibility Pack (LED headlights with automatic levelling and washers, Adaptive Front Light System, Dusk-sensing and rain sensitive wipers, rear parking sensors) and £795 for Bose Sound System)
Last month at a glance: Abarth providing fun on mundane journeys over Christmas

Previous reports
Naughty but nice? A noisy Abarth noses onto the Fleet
Can 124 score 10/10 against 595 and MX-5?
Sliding around Silverstone in the Abarth puts it in Matt's good books
Electrical gremlins starting to emerge in the little Abarth





Dynamic photos: Will Williams


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Comments (22) Join the discussion on the forum

  • paulyv 25 Jan 2018

    See you in 3 years Abarth.

  • tim milne 25 Jan 2018

    I've just got one of these (same colour) and I can't believe how much I love it. The seating position is great, the steering is lightening-quick, the gear shift is exquisitely mechanical and the interior feels special with its flashes of alcantara and its Ferrari-mocking central red rev-counter. On top of all this, it just has bags of character that makes it fun at any speed.

    In comparison, its predecessor, a Golf R, to which I grew a kind of grudging affection towards, always felt like the result of a million meetings where everything was just as good as it needed to be, rather than exceptionally good or bad.

    Of course, the Golf R — and indeed, any Golf — is the car you have when you can only have one car; it is defined by this purpose of compromise. But, I've replaced it with a gloriously impractical two-seater and 1995 Volvo 850 Estate (£350) to lug around all the bulky stuff. The best thing about having both is that each one makes the other feel special on its own terms and so neither ever gets boring — something you can't enjoy with just one Golf.

  • 3yardy3 25 Jan 2018

    "During the cold snap over Christmas, the windows froze over, preventing them from dropping the centimetre or two necessary to open the door"

    My hard top 335i does this... its a right pain when it freeze

  • Reeves_and_Mortimer 25 Jan 2018

    I've just got one of these as well (in Black) and it will replace my Skoda Octavia vRS 230, so similar to the guy with the Golf R, it's replacing a very capable, practical car. Got a great deal on a lease and it feels much more than special than its 1.4 litre 170bhp would suggest. The noise it makes is incredible and whilst there are so few about on the roads right now (only seen two others), no-one knows what it is, so it probably appears much more exotic than it really is! it's a bit tricky to get in, for a 6ft plus-er, but once you're in, it's comfortable and great to drive. Just need some decent weather now!!!

  • stuckmojo 25 Jan 2018

    I really like those. They look very pretty in the metal.

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