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Australia to score spicy 124 Spider first

Spider bites: The Fiat 124 Spider was uncovered at last month’s LA show, and it will arrive in Australia in Abarth guise late in 2016.

Fiat 124 Spider to launch Down Under in late 2016 in go-faster Abarth guise first

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Fiat logo9 Dec 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

FIAT'S 124 Spider will be offered with a faster and more powerful Abarth version when it hits Australian shores late in 2016.

GoAuto understands that the Italian car-maker's version of the Mazda MX-5 will come to market in performance-honed Abarth guise, but it remains unclear if the regular 124 Spider will be offered Down Under.

American publication Autoblog has published spy shots of the Abarth-badged 124 Spider undergoing testing in Europe, with the images revealing a production mule with quad exhausts, bigger wheels, chunkier side sills and larger front air intakes than the standard version.

Fiat is yet to officially announce an Abarth version of the 124 Spider, but prior to its reveal last month at the Los Angeles motor show, it had been speculated that the sportscar – a joint development with Mazda – could be launched globally as an Abarth model, not a Fiat.

The regular 124 Spider is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder MultiAir engine, delivering 119kW/250Nm, but Autoblog has suggested the Abarth version could be offered in two states of tune – one offering 127kW and a second, more potent variant pumping out between 157 and 164kW.

Other reports have suggested that it could use the 180kW 1.8-litre all-aluminium turbocharged four-pot that powers the Alfa Romeo 4C.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty told GoAuto at the recent 500X crossover launch that he was impatient to get the car into local showrooms, and hinted that the company would offer something a little different to other markets.

“For us, we would like to have it at the same time that everybody else is getting it, but we took a little different approach with it for our market – and we are not ready to tell you exactly what we are doing but it is pretty exciting,” he said.

“So you saw the pictures of that vehicle, and just imagine it looking even better than that for our market.”

Little else is known about local specifications for the Japanese-built drop-top, but Mr Dougherty said the company's relationship with FCA Group chief marketing officer and head of Fiat brand Olivier Francois could help ensure a unique market launch in Australia.

“He (Mr Francois) can help us a lot with Fiat product and brand, because he is the global head of Fiat,” said Mr Dougherty. “He can help us get it to market faster and do different things with it.” Mr Dougherty pointed out that the 124 Spider was a joint development with Mazda, and that it was more than a re-badged MX-5.

“It’s not the same vehicle as the other vehicle being built at that plant,” he said. “It has completely different sheet metal, a completely different powertrain, from the beltline up on the inside of the vehicle, everything is different.

“It was joint developed. It wasn’t like, ‘oh yeah we are going to slap a badge on it’. It is not a badge-engineered vehicle it’s a unique design for us. In that we designed it.” FCA Australia director of marketing and product strategy Zac Loo told GoAuto that the company would leverage the history of the original 124 Spider from the 1960s when it eventually launches the new version in Australia late next year.

“There is a lot of heritage in the 124 name which has spoken to the way we have approached the car,” he said. “When we bring it to market, what we are looking for is a completely different proposition.

“We are not looking to just come and be a 'me too' we are looking to come and make our own stamp and that’s partly in the heritage space but definitely in the product space. We think there is a clear space outside of what they (Mazda) are doing.”

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