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Anyone else see this on the old fashioned UK TV channel BBC2 on Sunday 19 March? It started off with Matt LeBlanc driving an "old" yellow 124 Spider and seemingly enjoying it, trying to fool us into thinking he was in Italy, and then he pulls up alongside a red "Fiat 124 Spider Abarth" (no heritage stripe and Fiat badge on the steering wheel) which gave the game away as as far as him being in the USA instead. He pulls up into a street cafe and orders a coffee and then fesses up about not being in Italy, and also fessing up about the 124 Spider being an MX5 (Miata) in drag, rather labouring the point in fact. He then dismisses the car as being overpriced at £30k and at the end all the presenters smugly agree that they hate it. Like most journo's they've all missed the point about the proper Fiat version, and how that offers a sensible and better looking alternative to the lower capacity MX5/Miata, but I do have to find myself agreeing that in the UK at least, the Abarth is over-priced.

But the worst thing for me about the review was the shot looking forward over the bonnet (hood) with the sun reflecting off it, going round a corner, highlighting the terrible swirl marks and scratches in the red paint.
 

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The most glaring thing about it was Leblanc going out of his way to drive a US-spec car, tell us he's in Los Angeles, and then pronounce that the FIAT is $9000 more than the Miata. That's just plain false, as in the US, the Miata and 124 are within a few hundred dollars of each other, depending on the trim levels.

An Abarth does cost about £9,000 more than the base 150 HP Miata in Britain, but when you add Bilsteins and Brembos to the MX-5 some of that gap disappears. Since it's a show for the British public, he could have made the point better by driving to Pinewood Studios in a UK-spec Abarth and stating the price difference in pounds. As it was, he just sounded ignorant.

Harris complaining that "it grips the road too well" is further evidence that they disliked the car before they even got in it and were just looking for excuses to pan it. Yes, the FIAT grips better, that's part of its design. It's not trying to out-Miata the Miata, it's going for a different experience and they completely missed the point.

Overall, it doesn't bother me that they didn't like it, only that their reasons were so poorly considered.
 

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Yep....they don't get it. The Abarth would seem overpriced in the U.K. but actually the MX5 is cheap. In Aus a top spec MX5 is about the same price as an MX5 but the Abarth is about the same money as the UK. We pay more for the MX5.
 

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Agreed! Can't stand the new show. Matt as host is horrible. Seems so forced, scripted, and almost needs a laugh track. The casting agents need to be re-casted!
 

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I don't mind Matt Le Blanc in the host role :)
 

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Am I going insane? I don't remember this AT ALL. Was this on BBC America in the US?
BBC2 (UK), Series 24, episode 3

As for the complaints about the presenters... LOL

Yeah, Chris Harris knows nothing about cars. ;) Matt actually seems clueful and Rory is a good guy. The comment about too much grip was almost delivered with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

It's just baiting and a message to FIAT to ship the car with a better tune and lower the price in the UK. This is BBC UK, the target audience is the UK. It's UK tax dollars paying for this show. They are really not obliged to talk about other markets if they don't feel the need - it's not their target audience.

The whole point of the 124 is that it ISN'T saddled with a wheezy NA engine - putting aside having an actual FIAT engine. There is so much that can be done with this turbo engine that you can't do with an NA engine - short of adding a turbo on the Mazda. If the car came with a re-badged Mazda engine I would have zero interest in this car but that's just me.

Take it with a grain of salt - kinda like comments about the engine only being SOHC. Uh huh.

Anyway... My take away was just reinforcement of liking that I can buy a modern interpretation of the 124 and not going into the rat hole of ancient 1960s cars and their foibles (been there, done that). The "nostalgia" that Matt presented with the old 124 was quaint/cute and there are people that want that... more power to them. To me it's just a PITA and I'm a fairly hard core wrench turner. Ain't got no time for dat.

 

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Why on earth should we worry ? Fronted by a B-list celeb hired by the BBC to give the show some trans-Atlantic appeal, and two other guys nobody ever heard of.
Chris Harris is a long term motor-noter with quite a following. I would even have put him up there amongst my favourite car reviewers. He's never liked the MX5. He is a fan of the GT86. I think he likes cars that he can drive sideways easily.
 

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Between Netflix and Amazon Prime, I spent the entire winter binge watching Clarkson/Hammond/May, from May's introduction to their firing from BBC. I then watched the first season of Grand Tour on Amazon. Didn't like some of the new GT schtick- the guest being killed every week got old at week #2. "The American" is a flop compared to The Stig. Even their new track doesn't have the same appeal. I've not seen the new TG crew, but they don't sound appealing to me, either.

Way to go, Clarkson, for ruining the good thing the three of you had. BBC should have kept Hammond and May, and just replaced Clarkson. With Danica Patrick, for example. She could out-drive Clarkson, and she could have raced against The Stig, and she can speak in public, both scripted and ad-lib.

Steve.
 

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I just caught this and was struck by the fact that the comparison between the original and new 124, and the miata, seemed scripted to conform with the writers concept for the sequence. With all the backroad driving, there was no mention of the distinct differences in suspension tuning, just waxing nostalgic about an original whose achellies heal was reliability. (I strongly suspect that was Matt's first time in a 124.) The comparison of interiors was so theatrical that one would have thought that journalistic integrity would require clarification of the dramatic license they had taken... that the unit on display didn't reflect UK kit in the price quoted.

And I've never heard a review suggest the miata is inferior to an MGB or TR because it wasn't made in the UK. Even the British were glad it was made in Japan. The time spent comparing vehicle interiors should have been spent comparing some useful data on track/autocross. At least some recognition of the choice to be had and specific observations of relative strengths.

As so many of their skits, this was a semi-informative and not entirely on the level. I wouldn't give them too much more credit than that, but it was interesting to see a car program roll out a double standard and work so hard to be harsh.
 

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BBC2 (UK), Series 24, episode 3

...The whole point of the 124 is that it ISN'T saddled with a wheezy NA engine - putting aside having an actual FIAT engine. There is so much that can be done with this turbo engine that you can't do with an NA engine - short of adding a turbo on the Mazda. If the car came with a re-badged Mazda engine I would have zero interest in this car but that's just me...
I love this little turbo, compared to the NA. It's potential alone makes the current Spider a VERY interesting set of wheels.
 
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