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Discussion Starter #1
Last summer, I decided I wanted an economical, practical commuter car, preferably without a roof... with a ripping motor... and great handling. Almost an impossible combination until I looked at the 500C Abarth. Found a "GQ" model at almost $12k off sticker a few states away and drove it home madly in love.

from the top of Old Spiral Highway by Jeff Conlin, on Flickr

"panorama sunroof" by Jeff Conlin, on Flickr

sunset on metallic "Granito Lucente" paint by Jeff Conlin, on Flickr

Excellent car... ticked all of those boxes and thensome. For $17k, I couldn't say a bad word about it (though if I had paid the full $29k sticker, I'd have been a bit disappointed). As it is ultimately a performance variant of a two-generation-old economy car, some little details were understandable, but increasingly annoying. Cheap plastics, fit/finish inconsistencies, squeaks and rattles... plus, even though it was a lot of fun to flog around, the FWD torque steer and tendency toward understeer just wasn't as fun as that engine could be.

So during my 30k service, I wandered over to the showroom to look at the 124 Abarths that had just arrived the day before. Took one for a test drive and was very impressed. Wasn't quite ready to walk away from the 500 yet (especially with the dealers still throwing in "market adjusted" pricing)... but the seed was planted.

Fast forward to this past weekend, in between two snowstorms, just out of the Christmas rush, definitely not prime convertible-buying season... so it could be the perfect opportunity to find a deal. Still figuring I want an Abarth, but decided to give the 124 Classica a spin first just to have a control.

All the push of the Abarth, all of the fit and finish upgrades over the 500, great control feel and a more compliant ride on bad roads, great audio and features (including headrest speakers) even out of the base radio without the giant ugly touchscreen and bad UI (personal preference, but I found using the infotainment hardware on the tech package to be maddening).

Drove the Abarth again and surprised myself... outside of the Abarth's awesome seats, I truly preferred the more simple Classica. Per the dealer, interest was very low in the base models without touchscreen, especially in the "bronzo magnetico" brown, which in person has a great subtle metallic shine to it. I was hooked.

Wasn't quite the $12k discount from the last one, but worked out a very good deal (after a case of mistaken identity resulting in almost being thrown out of the dealership by the general manager, but thankfully that was cleared up quickly). Between snow, heavy rain, and battling the flu, I haven't had a chance to really get out and play yet... but I'm already in love, even more so than the 500.

2017 Fiat 124 Classica - "bronzo magnetico" by Jeff Conlin, on Flickr

2017 Fiat 124 Classica - "bronzo magnetico" by Jeff Conlin, on Flickr

2017 Fiat 124 Classica - "bronzo magnetico" by Jeff Conlin, on Flickr
 

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Congrats on the new 124 Spider and great pictures! I'm guessing you found the Classica to be just as good because of the 160 horsepower the Elaborazione Abarth in the US cranks out, identical to the standard 124 Spider.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Yep... contrary to a lot of what I've read on here, I think the US-spec Abarth is a good deal compared to the rest of the world, even despite some of the de-contenting. But... the ~$4000 premium over the full-power Classica just isn't worth it (to me! just my opinion)... especially with the range of parts available on the aftermarket.

One thing I really liked about the US-spec 500 GQ was the relative stealthiness of it. It was a full-on Abarth but with regular FIAT badging and a fairly quiet exhaust. The Classica strikes me in that same vein... the power and most of the handling, but without the overt flash (and unnecessary attention when really getting on it)

Also, did I mention how much I hated the touchscreen? :)
 

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The Bronzo Magnetico is a stunning and somewhat rare color. Very classy. Your photos make me long to drive my 124 through a forrest, even in the rain. Congratulations.
 

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Sweet!
 

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The Bronzo Magnetico is a stunning and somewhat rare color. Very classy. Your photos make me long to drive my 124 through a forrest, even in the rain. Congratulations.
Otherworldly beautiful setting for a 124. A Pacific Northwest road trip is on my Fiat's bucket list. In 2011 I rented a Mustand and drove along the coast to the Canadian border, flying back home to SoCal. I'd like to explore more of the interior regions. Thanks for the photo.
 
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Congrats! And that is a truly stunning color. I haven't seen the Bronzo Magnetico before and it is, as the name suggests, magnificent. It also helps that the 124 has great lines to start with. You mentioned a great range of aftermarket parts to punch up the performance, do you have any upgrades in mind?
 

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I'm now inspired to go out and get some mountain pics. Tomorrow.
 
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Discussion Starter #13
You mentioned a great range of aftermarket parts to punch up the performance, do you have any upgrades in mind?
Will be leaving it stock to acclimate for a few months first. So far I'm quite happy. Maybe a little bit more audible grunt outside the car would be nice (Good-Win muffler delete or Remus slip on?) but I like being stealthy and the in-cabin exhaust note is fine.

The ride is compliant but seems pretty stable in the corners, though I haven't had a chance to really push it yet. The tail seems more reluctant to wag out compared to the ND (even with the stability control on "low"), but hopefully a little more animation will come with time.

The steering feels pretty vague. Some of that is the transition from FWD, but it's a common complaint against the ND as well. Curious to see if there is a way to fix this... pulling the fuse probably creates issues with the traction/stability control. I love and miss full-manual racks.

Still... can't believe the value in this platform. Really excited to start racking up the miles.
 

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Congratulations, I love that bronze color, and I think it will prove to be the rarest color on these cars.

I think you will like the 124 compared with the 500GQ. The 124 has a much better chassis, it's a true performance car chassis, not just an upgraded economy car. Don't get me wrong, I love the 500, and it does some things better than the 124, but as a driver's car, it's the 124 by a long shot.

Greg
 

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Discussion Starter #16
... a true performance car chassis, not just an upgraded economy car.
Exactly... that was part of the compulsion (no pun intended) on the trade. As fun and functional as the 500 was, I was always aware of the limitations and corners cut. I loved for what it was, but just felt like it was time to get something I *really* wanted.

The 124's highway manners alone are worth the upgrade... even though the wheelbases are similar, lower center of gravity, even weight distribution, and improved damping make longer trips and commuting much more enjoyable (not to mention the much-needed 6th gear).

It is taking a bit longer to acclimate to the 124's twisty-road manners. The 500 would hit its limits quickly, but communicated them very well. It was easy to stay at ~8/10ths and know what kind of margin you had. The 124 seems a bit more vague so far (though cold road temps and relatively low seat time certainly contribute). I can definitely see some suspension tuning in the near future - trying to find that middle ground between grand-touring ride but with a bit more stability when pushed.
 

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It is taking a bit longer to acclimate to the 124's twisty-road manners. The 500 would hit its limits quickly, but communicated them very well. It was easy to stay at ~8/10ths and know what kind of margin you had. The 124 seems a bit more vague so far (though cold road temps and relatively low seat time certainly contribute). I can definitely see some suspension tuning in the near future - trying to find that middle ground between grand-touring ride but with a bit more stability when pushed.
Well said, that's how I felt about it. The 500 Abarth's suspension may be inferior, but I feel that off the showroom floor it's tuned a little better. It still won't corner with the 124, the 67:33 weight distribution sees to that, but it feels a little easier when both cars are driven at 8/10ths.

On my classica I went with H&R springs and Eibach anti-sway bars. I am very happy with this set up. It still rides pretty well, but has a big improvement in cornering grip, feel and predictability. I can say that I am happier with this suspension set up, than with any set up I have run on previous Fiats or Alfas, and that includes RS-Racing's GTV6 kit, and that's saying A LOT.

One thing that drove me nuts on the Classica is how the front end is aligned. At least on my car the steering wheel has very little return to center force. In most Italian cars, if you let off of the wheel mid turn, the steering wheel will try to return to the straight ahead position due to the castor setting. The stock settings on my car just didn't have enough castor for my liking. If I let go of the wheel mid turn, it just stays there. Now I know there are pros and cons here, and I know that cars in Japan are often set up that way, but I just don't like it, it doesn't fit my style of driving. So, added a little more castor and now I am happy.

At some point, when I have more experience with this car, I may do an alignment article. Of course this is one area where there usually is no right answer so I'll be ready to get flamed :)

Greg
 

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Great pictures and post ! I followed your pics to Flickr and have to say you've provided some spectacular new wallpaper for my computer! I enjoyed your estimate of the 500 too. I had always wondered about them since they seem like a "snotty" little car that can provides so much enjoyment.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
...I can say that I am happier with this suspension set up, than with any set up I have run on previous Fiats or Alfas, and that includes RS-Racing's GTV6 kit, and that's saying A LOT.
Good to hear - how much "drop" is involved with that setup? Not a fan of too much lowering, but some is definitely justified.

One thing that drove me nuts on the Classica is how the front end is aligned. At least on my car the steering wheel has very little return to center force... If I let go of the wheel mid turn, it just stays there...
EXACTLY!! It's been quite some time since I've had a RWD car, so I figured some of the steering vagueness is related to the front wheels being unhindered by power delivery... but there is SO little communication and resistance through the steering wheel, it's really taking some getting used to.

FWIW, the Abarth felt the same way... I know there is quite a bit of disdain for the electronic power steering assist with the ND and 124 alike, but it's good to hear that a bit of castor adjustment yields positive results... thank you very much for the response.
 
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