After the noticeable changes to the 124’s bodywork, it’s a little disconcerting to find the 124’s cabin so dependent on smoke and mirrors for a sense of identity.

The feeling is by now a familiar one: we experienced it in Fiat’s version of this car and no one with knowledge of the MX-5 could fail to spot the wholesale carry-over of Mazda’s architecture.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
…but then my hand returns to the perfectly located gearlever and I’m reminded that ergonomic priority has been given correctly

Whether or not this is a problem is wholly subjective, though, because – objectively, at least – the interior remains a dainty and very dapper masterstoke.

You sit splendidly low, everything around you aesthetically pleasing and well put together, and aside from the fact that you’ll unwittingly click the infotainment controller down with your left elbow and there’s almost nowhere to put anything, it’s all beautifully organised, especially when you take the car’s diminutive size into account. 

Abarth’s embellishments are, if anything, even milder than those enacted by Fiat. Most notably, you get the scorpion badge, a larger edition number plaque, a vividly red rev counter and a button to engage Sport mode.

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Otherwise, it’s mostly just trim materials that have changed, but these are very well handled, especially with regard to the leather sport seats and Alcantara trim of our test car.

Whether or not a smattering of gratifyingly tactile surfaces goes any further to justifying the Abarth’s substantial premium is debatable but, to our testers, they did produce a measurable upswing in appreciation for the surroundings compared with those of the Fiat 124. Not bad for smoke and mirrors.

The screen and its controller are unaltered from their deployment in the Fiat 124 Spider, which means they’re essentially no different from the infotainment that features in the Mazda MX-5.

As with the rest of the interior, this is both an advantage (the Mazda system is fundamentally very decent) and a disadvantage (it’s plainly another manufacturer’s set-up with an Abarth badge stuck on the front).

For our money, we’d take Mazda’s tech over Fiat’s equivalent anyway — especially as it comes fully stocked with sat-nav, DAB tuner, Bluetooth and rear-view camera.

Granted, if you felt minded to complain about Turin’s failure to even tweak the on-screen menu to include its own interface, we wouldn’t blame you. But if you can make your peace with the 124’s carried-over cabin, chances are the infotainment’s similarities won’t upset you too much.

Our test car had the upgraded Bose stereo, which increases the speaker count and includes a subwoofer, too. Given the inevitable fight against wind noise, we’d recommend it.  

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