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    Fiat 124 Abarth vs Mazda MX-5 Miata: Battle of the Budget Roadsters

    Fiat 124 Abarth vs Mazda MX-5 Miata: Battle of the Budget Roadsters

    For driving enthusiasts on a budget, two stylish convertible sports cars stand out: the Fiat 124 Abarth and Mazda MX-5 Miata. Both deliver an exciting driving experience along with the wind-in-your-hair freedom of open-top motoring. But how do they compare, and which one is the better buy?

    This head-to-head review compares every aspect of the 124 Abarth and MX-5 Miata to help you decide which best fits your needs and budget.

    Performance and Powertrains

    Under the hood, the Fiata 124 Spider shares much with the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Both have rear-wheel-drive chassis with a front-mounted engine and near 50:50 weight distribution for ideal sports car balance.

    Key performance specifications:

    Specification 124 Abarth MX-5 Miata
    Engine 1.4L Turbo Inline-4 2.0L Naturally Aspirated Inline-4
    Horsepower 164 hp 181 hp
    Torque 184 lb-ft 151 lb-ft
    Transmission 6-speed Manual 6-speed Manual
    0-60 mph 6.8 seconds 6.5 seconds
    Top Speed 144 mph 134 mph

    The 124 Spider gets its grunt from a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder producing 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft torque. In the Miata, there's a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder with 181 hp and 151 lb-ft.

    The Abarth's smaller turbo engine delivers stronger torque lower in the rev range. So while the Miata ultimately makes more peak power, the 124 feels punchier from a standstill and in everyday driving. The turbo helps it accelerate faster off the line, with a 3-tenths advantage in 0-60 mph runs. It also tops out 10 mph faster.

    For those wanting a soundtrack to match the performance, the Abarth’s active exhaust system provides satisfying burbles and pops on overrun. The Miata makes delightful high-revving noises too, but its engine note stays cleaner and more refined.

    Winner: 124 Abarth - better torque and acceleration give it the performance edge. The active exhaust sweetens the deal for driving enthusiasts.

    Handling and Dynamics

    Sharing the same rear-drive platform, both cars offer sharp, engaging handling with incredible feedback. Lightweight construction, near-perfect weight distribution, tight suspension, and quick steering make these perfectly balanced roadsters an absolute blast to drive hard.

    But there are some key dynamic differences:

    • The Miata feels livelier and more nimble through tight turns
    • Its ultra-precise hydraulically assisted steering offers greater feel and control
    • The 124 leans less in corners and feels planted thanks to stiffer springs and dampers
    • Ride quality suffers slightly as a result, being firmer over bumps

    Ultimately, while the Abarth grips harder and stays flatter when pushed to its higher limits, the Miata delivers purer driving joy at sane road speeds. For backroad blasts, its snappier reflexes and telepathic steering respond intuitively to input.

    Winner: Draw – The Miata is more fun below the limit, but the 124 Spider has the edge at higher cornering speeds.

    Interior Comfort and Design

    Inside, the cabins differ in layout and styling. The 124 goes for a more old-school Italian look with body-color inserts and leather/Alcantara sports seats. The Miata keeps things simple with classic Mazda minimalism.

    Space and seating comfort are nearly identical in both cars. Drivers sit low and snug, complexion rather intimate. The small rear humps limit practicality for passengers or luggage. But we’re talking two-seat roadsters here more made for short weekend getaways than long trips or storing stuff.

    Features and tech offer quite similar functionality:

    • 7-inch touchscreen interfaces
    • Apple Carplay/Android Auto smartphone integration
    • Automatic climate control
    • Heated leather seats
    • Keyless entry with push-button start

    Build quality and materials favor the 124 Abarth, with richer leather and an abundance of soft-touch surfaces. But the Miata gets bonus points for exterior storage compartments behind each seat.

    Winner: 124 Abarth – Its cockpit looks and feels a bit more special inside.

    Exterior Styling and Design

    Park them side by side, and similarities between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata become apparent. Both share the same hood, front fenders, headlights, and proportions. Of course one is proudly Italian, the other Japanese.

    On looks alone, the 124 dazzles with its sensuous curves, tapering roofline, and pretty LED tail lamps. Its nose wears more aggressive air intakes, with the Abarth packing a functional hood scoop. Extended wheel arches and dual exhausts add some muscle. The Miata appears more petite and playful in comparison.

    A plethora of customizable accessories exist so owners can tailor their roadster’s style. Retractable cloth roofs lower in seconds to feel the wind. You can choose body-color-matched or black soft-tops on both cars. The Miata also offers a power-folding hardtop.

    Winner: 124 Abarth - its shapely bodywork and customization options give this Italian roadster the styling edge.

    Ownership Considerations

    Before committing to either sporty drop-top, weigh the following long-term ownership factors:


    • The Miata has better-predicted reliability per Consumer Reports
    • Long production runs since 1990 allow Mazda to refine the MX-5 over decades
    • As a newer model, the 124 Spider doesn’t have enough data yet to judge

    Running Costs

    • Fuel economy goes to the Miata, rated 30 mpg combined versus 26 mpg for the 124
    • Insurance and maintenance expenses will be comparable
    • The 124 Spider demands premium fuel

    Resale Value

    • The Miata holds value better long-term
    • 124 Spider resale values are not as strong, expect faster depreciation


    • Both come with 3-year/36,000 mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties
    • 124 Abarth offers longer powertrain coverage (10-years/100,000 miles)

    Winner: Mazda Miata – Tried-and-true reliability gives it the best prospects for lower lifetime ownership costs.

    Verdict: Which Budget Roadster is Best?

    While sibling rivals under the skin, the hot rod Fiat 124 Abarth and evergreen Mazda Miata take different roads chasing affordable roadster driving nirvana. Each has its high points:

    124 Abarth

    • More dramatic Italian styling inside and out
    • Stronger turbo torque and acceleration
    • Improved high-speed cornering grip
    • Plusher interior ambiance

    MX-5 Miata

    • Better low-speed handling agility
    • Telepathic steering with unbeatable feedback
    • Higher fun factor overall
    • Proven rock-solid long-term reliability

    So which to pick as the best budget roadster? The Mazda Miata wins out for us as the purer sports car. Sure, the 124 Spider Abarth brings Italian flair with its turbo power. But no competitor can match the Miata's spritely reflexes and dialed-in steering feel. Considering predicted reliability and lower ownership costs moving forward, Mazda's formula keeps this icon affordable as a used roadster. The nod still goes to the MX-5.

    Overall Winner: Mazda MX-5 Miata

    For maximum smiles-per-dollar behind-the-wheel, plus sensible running costs thereafter, the feisty Mazda Miata retains its crown as roadster royalty.