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by Tim Beissmann

Fiat Chrysler Australia (FCA) says it is leaning towards offering only the hardcore Abarth-badged versions of the all-new Fiat 124 Spider convertible sports car when it goes on sale here in 2016.

FCA director of marketing Zac Loo told CarAdvice that around the world the Italian company would offer both regular Fiat and high-performance Abarth versions of its still-to-be-revealed roadster, and said the latter was currently the front-runner for our market.

“At this stage we’re not decided if it will be one or the other or both, but we’re leaning towards Abarth only,” Loo said.

“We’ll look at it and see where we can provide the best sports car. That’s most likely going to be an Abarth, but nothing’s set in stone.”

The Fiat 124 Spider and its Abarth derivatives will share their basic architecture with the Mazda MX-5 but will feature their own powertrains, tuning and design to give them a character unique from the top-selling Japanese roadster.


Above: Fiat won’t look to tackle the MX-5 head-to-head in Australia.

Loo all but confirmed the Abarth roadsters headed our way would be positioned above the MX-5, with the local division believing it would be unwise to try to go head-to-head with the iconic Mazda.

“MX-5 has a really strong core that it’s building on, and we wouldn’t look to go after the same space,” he said.

Unless you come in with something that sets you apart as something different, you’re going to face that challenge, so I think that’s really what we’ve been looking at.”

The new Mazda MX-5 is priced from $31,990 to $41,550 plus on-road costs, suggesting the Abarth is likely to cost at least $40,000 when it launches here in the third quarter of next year.

Details of the Abarth/Fiat 124 Spider remain a well-kept secret, with the car’s specifications and styling still largely a mystery.


Above: expect more styling cues from the classic 124 roadster to appear.

Reports suggest Fiat’s version will be powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, while the meatier Abarth will get a detuned version of the 1.75-litre four-cylinder turbo from the Alfa Romeo 4C.

All is expected to be revealed at November’s Los Angeles motor show, where the car is reportedly set to make its debut.

Loo has seen the finished product and says it’s “a very good looking car”. Concealing its Mazda bones, Loo said Fiat’s product looked very much like “its own car”, and confirmed “there’s definitely heritage used”, promising some form of stylistic homage to the original 124 roadster of the 1960s and 1970s.