Fiat 124 Spider Forum banner

1 - 10 of 10 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys, after few weeks of ownership, I decided to post a "first impression" review; based on my daily experience with the car.

I use the car as daily driver, so I have a feel for what it means to use it in traffic, and when I use it for pure fun on backroads; and I want to share with you (owners or future owners), my thoughts.

My car : 124 Abarth manual, for US market with safety and comfort package; purchased in Northern California at one of the big Fiat dealer in the area.
Price:31K plus about 3400 for taxes, registration and fees; and the only extra is the GPS card (299 dealer discounted price)

Exterior and paint:

Overall the car seems pretty nice; the paint has some sort of metallic flakes in it (mine is Black), that shine nicely in the sun. No big blemishes or imperfections in the paint, from what I can tell. Although the black paint is very prone to scratch; I did notice few on the rear bumper, after getting too close to a bush on the side of the road; and the front has some little scratches, due to particles coming from the road I guess. Just something to keep in mind when picking a color...probably red and white are the best ones to hide scratches and marks.

The material used for the exterior are pretty good; for most of the car parts; but there are some parts that are cheaper than a toy: the bottom part of the front bumper, is really flimsy, and I can see how it may break at the first hit when getting in or out of a garage, with an inclined ramp that is too steep (or some roads with deep water runways, when getting in and out of parking lots). Another area that look really cheap and prone to damage is the area below the windshield; you can literally lift the plastic cover there, which is quite disappointing, looking at how the rest of the car is built. Cheaping out on few parts like that, really has no logic explanation. Also if you look at the top part of the windshield; there is a plastic strip (not metal, plastic), that has 2 large gaps on each side; I assume it is removable for the windshield replacement? Anyway, it is not perfectly flush with the frame; nothing major but show sloppy design and assembly. First time I see something like this on a 15K+ car; but I guess it is comparable to the Mazda level of quality;since they are made in the same factory. I never noticed such cheap things on a MX5.

The overall line of the car is gorgeous; it is very similar to the original 124 spider; although it feel more aggressive. It is mostly a personal preference, but I am in love with the look of this car; and you can tell that others like it too, since I get looks from anyone that notice this car. I am quite disappointed at the choice that Fiat made, to remove badging on the 124 Abarth, for the US market...gone are the side badges with the scorpion, above the turn signal on the side of the car; and same goes for the Abarth badge on headrest, steering wheel and armrest door. Make no sense to have a Abarth with Fiat badging; either you put all Abarth or all Fiat badges. Nothing that can't be fixed, adding the missing badges or replacing the fiat badge (although you can't just remove the one on the steering wheel, since it is part of the Airbag; you can at most, glue a little badge on top of it, from what I read), but it just show how little Fiat care about the NA market, where probably they want to push more for the Fiat brand, compared to the Abarth one.

The chassis is well made; the car is really solid and feel stable when driving; the rolling is low and it keep overall a very predictable behavior. IF this is your first RWD car, you won't find an easier one to drive.

Engine and clutch:

This is the minus for me; considering that the car is light, a 1.4L with turbo is a good choice, but the outcome when driving, is something that may not really satisfy you.
The first problem is the power output: with turbo, you get performances fast but they have a range; go outside the range and you pay the penalty, with sluggish response and less than brilliant driving experience. But when you are in the sweet spot (2000-5500 RPM), the car is really alive and fun to drive; the clutch release a bit low and it takes a bit to get used to, but it deliver quick shifts, thanks to the short throw shifter, that has very clean action. Sometimes you may feel resistance or a bit of clunky noises when shifting; I was told it is normal, due to the "racing" setup that the Abarth has. I do not dislike it; since happens rarely and give more of a feeling of race car, compared to a regular smooth shifter on a salon car.
The speed is good; considering that the frame is super light; but don't expect to drag race anyone, even in the Abarth; since the engine has not that much power; and the best part is the huge torque, that deliver fast response and help while driving in traffic.

There is also a "sport" mode, which is changing some parameters on the car mapping; changing a bit the driving experience. I did use it sometimes; although the changes are not giving you more power, just stiffen up the car, and give more response to the throttle, giving you the feeling of going faster. It is a nice touch; you may enjoy it for backroads driving, but in traffic, it is not really doing much, beside burn a bit more of fuel (not that noticeable, I did run a full gas tank in sport mode and I did end up with almost the same miles, driving in the same way on the same distance that I usually do).

I would love to see an Abarth with a 2.0 aspirated maybe, or even a turbo 2.0; after all the Giulia is using a similar engine, and same goes for all the sporty cars that are in the same range of the 124 (30-40K); but the car is already fast as is; so this is mostly a nitpicking.

Interiors:

This is another thing that had me scratching my head; since the US version does not have alcantara on the armrest, nor the Abarth logo on neither the armrest, steering wheel and headrests. Debatable choice, or maybe there is another reason; but I do miss these little touch in the cabin. Overall the interior is 1:1 copied from the MX5; the only changes are that the 124 use soft touch materials, which in the end is plastic. Do not expect luxurious interiors; because this is not an Audi or Jaguar. The quality is good, but it feels more in the category of a Chrysler, than a more luxurious brand. Nice touch the red stiching on the dashboard; although it is very small and hard to notice overall.

The seats are comfortable; I am a big guy and they keep me in a nice driving position; if you are 6f or taller, keep in mind that you will suffer when the top is closed; also there is no way to get the steering wheel closer to you, since it only go up and down. I like the touch of the speakers in the headrest; but they are not that loud; and I was not able to find a way to configure them corerctly, since the entertainment system has controls only for front and rear; which does not seem to affect much the headrest speakers. Good sound from the infotainment system, the touch screen is big and easy to use; although the software has some issues, especially if you want to see the current song playing, and have the GPS up. When in radio mode, you can see the GPS showing the intersection approaching on the top; not sure why they didn't add a line on the top, to show the song name or radio station currently set in, when in GPS mode. It is not that bad; just not super friendly to use.

The interior has virtually no space inside, beside a cubby between the seats, 2 storage box behind each seat (so you need to flip the back to access them), and a tiny space in the armrest, which may not fit neither your wallet, phone or anything else bigger than a lighter or a garage remote probably. This is one of the negative of this car; and remind me a lot of the Alfa C4; where you have basically no space to put away anything. The center cubby is big, but you will fill it fast, and it is a pain to access if you are not parked. There are 2 cup holders, which you can remove (their position between the seats is awkward), one can be placed on the right of the center console, so you can reach it easily when driving; but if you have a passenger, you can;t really use it, otherwise it will hit the passenger legs.
So if you have to travel in this car, beware that it has no places to store anything, and the rear booth is not that big either; so space may be an issue if you are a big guy with a ton of stuff in your pockets :)

Driving experience
This is a hit or miss; you may like it or hate it; so do yourself a favor and test drive one. I did check the Lusso and the Abarth, and did settle for the Abart; mostly because of the look, and the fact that it is more sporty. Is it worth the extra money? Up to you to decide; for me a 2K difference was not a problem, so I did buy it pushed by the emotional factor, more than the reason alone. Each person is different, so can't really say what works for you.

When you sit in this car, and turn on the engine; you get a satisfying roar from the awesome muffler. It is not "ricer-style"; with that preposterous noise that wake up your neighborhood if you leave early in the morning; but it is a nice and soothing noise, that at times, you enjoy more than the sound of your favorite music. There are no words to describe the feeling of going through mountain roads, revving the engine and hearing it pop, hiss and growl; it is really something that put a smile on your face, and feels like being in a higher tier car. I did appreciate that the noise is contained; because when you drive in the city, in traffic, even revving up the engine a bit, won't make you sound like a harley; after all you are driving a classy Abarth, not an import from F&F, riding on the grand canyon :) the car make noise when YOU decide that it is time to make some noise, and this is really appreciated.

The acceleration is a bit of a labor of love; the car is smooth when below 2K RPM, but laggy and sloppy at times; I don't get what is the problem, because I drive in the same way; sometimes the car smoothly move from a complete stop; other times you have to give gas to move it, or it will stall. Also if you are thinking to be in traffic, and move the car in a gear other than the first; forget about it. I had multiple occasion where I was almost completely stopped, but still rolling a bit, and in 2nd gear the car almost stall. Either you rev up the engine and make some noise, or get to a complete stop, put in the first gear and move on. Can't say if this is a problem with my car, or if it is a standard behavior of this engine.
Once you are running; switching gears is easy and fast; sometimes you get a nice pop; which is really satisfying :) Although you need to keep the engine in the sweet zone for the turbo to do its job, so keep that in mind. I do enjoy driving the car both in traffic, city and on small country roads. When you test drive it, also turn off the stability control ESP, and you will get much more fun out of the car.

Overall it drive very neutral, you need to do a lots of stupid things to get the rear or front loose; because the car seems to self-fix itself, once you try to get it loose. Turn off the ESP and you get more fun, although the rear LSD does compensate for aggressive driving, making you feel solid on the road, and when you loose your rear, it is always easy to regain control. The car does not have 300 HP, so you rarely loose control, unless you are on very slippery roads. Even when raining, the car was very predictable and easy to control.

Brakes are also a good strong point for the car; it is light so no need for much pressure to get the car to stop; the ABS works well, and the Brembo setup is giving that extra safety. Suspensions are well set, giving you both a safe and comfy ride when going on paved roads; and stability when on backroads. Didn't try to drive on gravel or country side roads; to not scratch the paint :)

OVERALL (TL;DR)

In the end, I do like the car. Is it perfect, **** no; but it is probably the best convertible that you can get for this price (unless you buy used cars). Many things could be done differently; like a bigger engine, more interior space, better materials; but then it would become a different car. I think they did capture the spirit of the old 124 Spider and made a "reboot" that is pleasant to look at, and functional. Mostly like the 500; which was a "poor man car", the people car; this one is the spider for "the rest of us". I may enjoy more to have a Jaguar or a Mercedes, but their price/value ratio is lesser than what you get for this car.

My suggestion is to try it and see for yourself, why this car is getting so many good reviews. Also try the manual and the auto, if you find anyone with the manual :) And see if the Abarth is more of what you want, or if you prefer the Lusso. I really enjoy the dual color interior, which is a shame that they do not offer it as extra. There is no Lusso-Abarth, sadly; it is either one or the other :)
Positive:
- great price for what you get
- sporty look, feel like a higher tier car
- light and nimble, it is pretty fast
- fun to drive, but safe; great starter RWD car

Negative:
- Engine not that powerful; lag with the turbo, out f the sweet spot
- materials used for some parts of the car feel cheaper than cheap
- inconsistent badging for the Abarth
- Not enough space in the cabin; minimum requried
- Avoid if you are too big; unless you drive it only with top down.
- reliability may be an issue; there is not enough historical data about the car, so it is a bit of a risk to get the first gen of a new model.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
676 Posts
Life is full of compromises. You makes your choice and pays the fee. When you said "nitpicking", brother you weren't kidding.
I'm guessing being so critical you knew what to expect going in, since you bought it. There are plenty of choices out there that will take care of the "shortcomings" you mention...especially in the power department....

If the manufacturer addressed all the issues that bother you, this car would no longer be a bargain. It is not a luxury car, not an Audi or Jag. It is a roadster in the true sense of the word. Yet it has A/C, power windows, entertainment system, modern technology, the easiest top to operate...ever...having owned MGs, Triumphs, older Fiats, this car is an absolute joy. This 6ft2in
280lb guy has not trouble with interior space, yea it's a little tight, but once installed, let the fun begin.

BTW, you CAN shift into first when the car is barely rolling...that would take care of your wimpy second gear take-off...

Please do not misconstrue this reply as an affront towards you...we all have opinions, to be respected by others...I totally respect your opinion and comments.....I was merely expressing mine....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Absolutely, compromising is the basic of life...after all, it is not the fittest that survive, but the one that adapt better and faster to changes.

I take your reply as you expression of your opinion; nothing wrong with that, I appreciate when someone take time to compare their ideas with others.

I do nitpick a lot; mostly because I do not buy a car every few years; I drive since 1990, I had 5 cars :) Ikeep them until they fall apart, because I love a car and that's why I want to buy it. Also I do not have disposable income, so my efforts are real when I get a new car; which is also why I expect the best that I can get, if the price is the same.

The car is awesome, I love it; but it is not perfect, and even less, a car that is for everyone, and that's why I did post my first impressions, to tell others that beyond the awesomeness of the car, there are issues, and when you buy a car, you want to have a clear idea of pros and cons. I did get it because I consider the pros more than the cons; I can live with low power and small space; but can't just say "it is OK" :) I can live with it; but that's a choice.

Why the car should not be a bargain, with some changes that make it better? You can buy a base model for 24? I want to put something more, and spend 10K more to get a better model. Alfa made the mistake to price the Quadrifoglio at 80K, which is Maserati entry level...while the base start at 30K, but this didn't stop people to get that car, even if in my opinion, it is very overpriced. The Abarth is top of the line; I ended up spending almost 35K for this car, not really "a bargain" when you consider that with 4-5K more, you get a different car. Sadly the Abarth is too expensive to be considered an entry level car, and too cheap to be considered a luxury roadster; and that's something that only Fiat can fix, either reducing the price or adding more to keep the current price. This does not apply to the standard 124; I am talking only of the Abarth.

I am pretty big and it is hard to get in and out; I am not 20 either, and that's why I did specify that the space available may be an issue, if you are a big guy. For you it works, for me it works too; I just have to adapt to the contortion to get in, when the top is up. Some may not be able to do so; you want to specify it :)

I do shift in 1st, but it is BAD :) first gear in almost any existing car, is used only for moving the car from complete stop to rolling state; with 5 gears, you can push a bit more on the first, but when you have 6 gears, first should be only used when you are full stop. OF all the cars that I drove, all were manual, and I never had the need to get in 1st gear, when still rolling, to move the car. Even on old cars; you could move the car from full stop in second gear, without get over 2K RPM; while in this car, I can't... Either I am getting old and can't drive manual anymore, or there is something off in the throttle mapping.

If I am not mistaken, it is possible to flash the car mapping software to change how it respond; although it feels like something that could void the warranty.

Thanks again for your reply, always good to hear what others think; you may know more than what I know, so it is beneficial :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
676 Posts
spiderlovah:

Thank you for your reply, and I am pleased that you understand "where I was coming from"! Yes this is a drop dead gorgeous car, and does have some issues.

The second gear problem was the first thing I became aware of, but since installing a GFB DV+ diverter valve modification, that issue is now almost nonexistent. As the aftermarket sellers say, this is a must have mod, and it really works...reasonably cheap to buy and fairly easy to install....you will be very happy.

If you think you are getting old because you've been driving since 1990, jeez, think again. Many of us on this forum have been driving since before you were born. The majority of us have had 50's and 60's even 70's sport cars, and we can certainly appreciate the refinements of a modern roadster like the 124.

Sounds like you are a big guy like me. With the top down, no issue getting in or out. With the top up, not such a pretty sight. Contortion only begins to explain it. I sometimes get in with top down, and then raise it once installed.

As we both agree, compromises.....it's still a blast to drive though.....

There are plenty of vendors offering different "tunes" or mapping for this car, but the warranty consequences are a bit of a question mark. Some offer options that can be reversed before going in for a warranty issue, but I can understand why someone may be skeptical.

I hope you have many happy miles with your car....keep that GFB DV+ in mind.....good luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
242 Posts
I have the Abarth manual with luxury trim. I have no trouble using 2d gear when almost stopped. Of course, I am always in sport mode. Also, hearing what spiderlovah paid for his Abarth w/ only the safety and comfort package, I am congratulating myself for getting mine at $27,000 plus $1000 transportation, and no sales tax. Of course, I got it used (w/1100 miles on it), but the prior owner also badged it up with some of the missing badges and some other Abarth add-ons.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
47 Posts
Have had my car for 2 weeks now. Hoping for better weather, been cold and or wet here. Still in love with it. I did get the Weathertech trunk mat and the cover for the top from Madness. Still learning it, haven't found out how to use auto windshield wipers, but that is ok. I will give more info in a few weeks once I have had more time with it.
Mark
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
I have the Abarth manual with luxury trim. I have no trouble using 2d gear when almost stopped. Of course, I am always in sport mode. Also, hearing what spiderlovah paid for his Abarth w/ only the safety and comfort package, I am congratulating myself for getting mine at $27,000 plus $1000 transportation, and no sales tax. Of course, I got it used (w/1100 miles on it), but the prior owner also badged it up with some of the missing badges and some other Abarth add-ons.
I did notice that with sport mode on, the throttle is more responsive, but if you leave it on while in traffic, the car jump very easily, and it is harder to have it roll slowly, compared to non-sport mode.

You did get a heck of a deal; 5K less on a car with just 1000 miles on it is a steal. I just wonder why the previouos owner decided to waste money and sell it after so few miles! Was he/she not happy with the car?

I did check the badge for the sides, and they are 70 USD a pop (so 140 plus shipping for both; they are the same as the ones on the 500 Abarth I believe; they have mopar logo in the back, from what I can tell from the pictures on Ebay.

I did realize that the non-US version does have alcantara also on the dashboard; where the stitching is; so basically the whole lower part of the dash, the shifter and handbrake cuffs and the center cover are in alcantara...while in US you get soft plastic and faux leather...it kills me :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Have had my car for 2 weeks now. Hoping for better weather, been cold and or wet here. Still in love with it. I did get the Weathertech trunk mat and the cover for the top from Madness. Still learning it, haven't found out how to use auto windshield wipers, but that is ok. I will give more info in a few weeks once I have had more time with it.
Mark
Looking forward to hear your experience with the car. Is it the Abarth, Lusso or basic one?

The manual really is disappointing; it was looking small, and in fact, has very little info, compared to old school manuals :) I did use the auto-wipers; just setting them to auto; same for the lights. It does its magic on its own; that's the beauty!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
242 Posts
The lady who sold it to me offered it here in this forum. She loved the Abarth, but she was seduced by a Roush Mustang to leave her love. Different strokes..... I was happy to accept her spurned love.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
70 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
The lady who sold it to me offered it here in this forum. She loved the Abarth, but she was seduced by a Roush Mustang to leave her love. Different strokes..... I was happy to accept her spurned love.
Poor thing, seduced and abandoned so fast, for a ripped mustang. To each their own I guess :) Her loss is your gain, congrats!
 
1 - 10 of 10 Posts
Top