This story begins in Japan, at the Mazda factory in Hiroshima and with a love affair between Italians and Japanese that arose with the aim of giving to motor lovers a new opportunity to enjoy a sports car designed by and to be your favorite toy. A project that has reached the market under 3 different signatures and with up to 4 completely different configurations. Today we pit the cutting edge Mazda MX-5 RF against the temperamental Abarth 124 Spider. One concept, two souls. Yes, choosing was never so difficult.
Two flavors of the same recipe, difficult to choose, impossible not to have fun
I remember the moment when Fiat and Mazda finally confirmed the collaboration agreement to develop and market a new generation of Mazda MX-5 (the fourth, ND) and a Fiat vision of this concept that would recover the essence of that Fiat 124 Spider . The agreement promised, in fact, it promised a lot, and it was talking about a light chassis, a pure roadster philosophy and the full involvement of each manufacturer to offer very different behaviors on the same platform.
Precisely this last factor, that of independent behavior, was the most important element of the agreement, since there was no longer talk of a car and simple redesigns to sell the same product under different emblems. Fiat and Mazda had drawn red lines in the development of each of their cars and, despite sharing a platform and a significant number of elements, each car would have its own soul. Today we can confirm that he was not lying, also discovering that the project would not be limited to only two cars, but that a third would arrive under the Abarth seal and a fourth based on the Mazda MX-5 that would have to be called RF to create a mini ” 911 targa “”.
The play seems to have come out to order, to the fans I mean. Lovers of the Miata concept now have the problem of having to choose between four visions of the same concept, something we will try to help through this comparison. And yes, you read that correctly, I have written we will try because after testing the models in this comparison, I don’t know very well if I’m even more confused than before.
The Mazda MX-5 RF is the latest great novelty of the Japanese brand, it is a revision of the original MX-5 to install a sophisticated retractable hardtop system that makes the MX-5 RF the first MX-5 Targa that has been built. It is a solution that seeks innovation, design and comfort in equal measure, becoming in a way the logical bodywork for those looking for a roadster for every day.
The unit that we have in hand corresponds to the Sport finish associated with the 2-liter, 160 hp gasoline engine belonging to the Skyactiv family. To put it in some way, we are before the current top of the range of the MX-5, by bodywork, equipment and tuning. On a technical level, this Sport finish offers improvements with respect to the rest of the range that concern a more powerful brake system, a specific rear differential and sports suspension signed by Bilstein. A kind of revision that adds a highly recommended plus to our “Miata”.
The Abarth 124 Spider is the most radical vision of the Fiat 124 Spider, in fact it is the most temperamental specification of all the models resulting from the agreement. Abarth boasts that its model is much more than a simple set-up, and after driving it we have to admit that the scorpion men have done their job quite well because it is perceived differently from the Fiat 124 and MX-5 from the first meter you travel. at your controls. All the Abarth 124 Spiders begin their life in the same factory where the Fiat and Mazda are built in Hiroshima, however they are later transferred to Italy where they will be finished by hand and will adopt all the pieces that will shape the character of the Abarth 124 Spider.
The fact that the scorpion seal is visible on the roadster means that specific elements such as the sonorous Record Monza exhaust, the Bilstein suspension equipment developed exclusively for Abarth, a Brembo brake system and a rear limited-slip differential with a completely different setting than can have been included. install Fiat or Mazda. Changes are also included in the interior and exterior at the level of upholstery, finishes or vinyls such as the exterior two-tone finish that our test unit wears. As much as they may dismiss the Abarth as a tuned Fiat 124 Spider, that trip to Italy means much more.
Getting at the controls of both models is a torrent of sensations, but all very different, never achieving the same could have such different paths. In the Mazda MX-5 RF we find a docile, refined and balanced character, a very complex recipe where driving pleasure has been combined with daily use without penalizing any of them. Its 2-liter engine is the best of the whole, an atmospheric block that goes up in laps in a very progressive way, stretching gears with real delight and with a very good cornering despite the softness of its suspensions. This MX-5 RF denotes being a sage in its field and this is demonstrated with a perfect set-up for its recipe as a sports car for daily use.
But suddenly you get on the Abarth 124 Spider and your already huge smile grows even bigger. Yes, you are delighted with the miata and its near perfect set-up, but then you gear first, open the throttle in the Abarth and that playful rear shows you that this chassis can do so much more. The Abarth is the dark side of this agreement, it is the pure and simple fun that in the MX-5 you do not finish reaching because of its refined character. Continuous crossovers, delicious sound, and a turbo engine that’s always available no matter what gear you’re in or where the tachometer needle is. It is a rear-wheel drive that is very easy to disengage, but always with a great sense of control and with great effectiveness if you know how to spin fine on the lines. It is character without half measures.
The secret formula: exquisite chassis, contained weight, power to spare and that change … what a delight of change!
However the million dollar question comes and goes through my head. I change car a dozen times and doubts assail me: I love the Mazda for its design and that naturally aspirated engine that also consumes up to 2.5 l / 100 km less, ummmm … no, I really love the Abarth for Its magnificent rear end and its sound, wait no, I prefer the MX-5 for its balance, well on second thought, maybe the Abarth is the best for its thrust and its most direct direction … and I have been that way all day. In the end, I soon realize that both cars offer very high levels of fun, although each one moves in its own style and, above all, they have very different prices which is where we really find the key. If we talk about sports cars like the Mazda MX-5 or the Abarth 124 Spider, it is clear that the price factor is an element that must be in the equation, if not, perhaps we would talk about choosing between a Porsche 911 or a Mercedes-AMG GT .
Putting in your garage a Mazda MX-5 2.0 160 CV with a 6-speed manual gearbox in Sport finish means spending 31,350 euros (33,850 euros if it is an MX-5 RF like the one at hand), opting for the Abarth 124 Spider 1.4 TB Multiair 170 hp with 6-speed manual gearbox and identical equipment translates into a price of 42,670 euros. More than 11,000 euros of difference that the Abarth must justify with a more radical set-up – and achieved, I would dare say -, an exhaust sound of the best on the market and a handcrafted finish that has been made by Abarth in its facilities in Italy to make it a more exclusive car than the miata. The differences between one model and another are and are very evident, in fact I think I am not wrong in assuring that their behaviors are so different that it will be difficult for you to like them equally, the exterior design factor is also very important and it is obvious that each you play your cards, but when the time comes to make numbers it seems clear that the higher price of the Abarth plays against you.
But why keep fooling us. I cannot think of a comparison where the final decision can be more passionate than this, and that is that all logic is left behind when what you are evaluating is taking home a two-seater roadster whose sole purpose is to devour curves and make you smile. Having said that and whatever you choose, what we know for sure is that fun is guaranteed and that you will never regret it.
Photo session by Juanma Cámara
* Bonus: remember that on our Instagram account (@Supercars Search Engine) you can see more images and videos about this comparison, such as this clip where we face the Abarth 124 Spider and Mazda MX-5 RF in an interesting hood duel: