The Abarth 124 Spider is what you might call ‘a bit of a giggle’.

Most Mazda MX-5 owners would have a lot of fun in one for an afternoon, we suspect, but then would probably be quite happy to swap their car keys back. Compared with the Japanese sporting icon from which it is sprung, it is a little noisy, harsh, gauche and trying.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Spunky turbo roadster has the soul of a hot hatch. Bravo, Abarth

But the Abarth 124 Spider is far from a failure. Abarth’s mission with this car must rightly have been to claim territory that the Mazda has never managed to secure: to convince petrolheads that a cloth-topped two-seater could feel as focused and hardcore as a really specialised £30,000 hot hatchback.

In that mission, the Abarth does remarkably well.

This 124 Spider is more of a niche proposition than its Fiat or Mazda sister cars.

You can understand why Mazda has never explored this tangent itself, given how hard this car’s suspension seems to make its body structure work at times.

But it’s a sports car that gives up its dynamic entertainment value even more easily than an MX-5 and that is quite a claim to fame.

Top 5 Sports cars

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

Ultimately, we like its chutzpah but prefer the Mazda as a pure driver’s car, which is why the Abarth is fourth on our top five list behind the Lotus Elise Sport, Toyota GT86 and the Mazda MX-5.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week