By: Jesse Adams

Johannesburg - Fiat has resurrected the historic 124 Abarth name with a modern day version of the 44-year old rallying special, available in South African dealerships now.

The new drop top borrows its name from the original 124 Abarth which was built in very limited numbers by the famed Italian tuning house in 1972 to allow specially-prepared 124 Spiders entry into Group 4 class rallies. At the time, the homologation specials had their standard convertible roofs replaced with hard tops for safety and aerodynamic reasons, but the new for 2016 version is a pure roadster with a manually retractable canvas hood.

If it looks a little familiar, it should, because this is basically a restyled and slightly hotted-up Mazda MX-5 under the skin. In place of the Japanese roadster’s 118kW/200Nm naturally aspirated 2-litre engine is a turbocharged 1.4 with 125kW and 250Nm. These new outputs give the 124 a claimed 0-100km/h acceleration figure of 6.8 seconds with a max speed of 232km/h - the Mazda’s numbers are 7.3 and 214. Like its counterpart, this Abarth 1060kg lightweight comes with a six-speed manual gearbox only.

Fiat has also overhauled the standard MX-5’s suspension with retuned springs, anti-roll bars, Bilstein shocks and 17-inch alloys, while a self-locking rear differential ensures no power is lost to unweighted inside wheelspin in tight twisties. A tuned ‘Record Monza’ exhaust system should also give the sportscar some street-cred in the shouty tailpipes department.

The 124 Abarth comes well stocked with a 7” colour touchscreen, nine-speaker Bose sound, two USB ports, cruise control, parking sensors, auto lights (full LED) and wipers, and keyless ignition.

Pricing, which includes a three-year/100 000km warranty and maintenance plan, is set at R649 900 with the only option being metallic paint at R4500. Fiat South Africa has imported only 30 units in its first batch, and will assess further availability next year.