New models - Abarth - 124 - Spider
Driven: Abarth ups 124 Spider order
Sharpened price boosts Abarth 124 Spider appeal, supply by more than 50 per cent
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21 Oct 2016
FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia has been allocated more than 50 per cent more Abarth 124 Spider sportscars following a last minute price sharpening exercise by the company’s new president and CEO.
In only his first weeks in the top job, former FCA UK boss Steve Zanlunghi slashed more than $2000 from the price of the Japanese-built two-seater convertible, boosting its appeal ahead of the launch and prompting the car-maker to request more vehicles.
Speaking at the Australian media launch, Mr Zanlunghi said the increased sales forecast was a result of a new sharper driveaway price of $43,500, and that the factory had confirmed the increased Australian allocation.
“We increased our initial planned production request by over 50 per cent,” he said.
“We gauged demand and we poled our network, we saw where the pre-orders were, got aggressive with the pricing and looked at how much equipment we were putting on it versus other vehicles in that same price band.” Mr Zanlunghi would not reveal what the order had been increased to but said the model had a fair chance at bucking the sportscar trend and could constitute a volume seller for the brand.
“This vehicle makes sense because there is a market for it. We can use it as a halo to the brand and Fiat showroom, we really aggressively priced it for a performance car and I’m not going to say this is going to be a huge volume driver for our overall organisation but I think there is some volume opportunity for the vehicle.” Unlike some other markets such as the UK where the model is available as performance-focused Abarth and more accessible Fiat 124, Australia will only get the top-performing Abarth version to act as a halo for Fiat.
The local Fiat passenger range only extends to the 500 compact hatch, 500X crossover and Freemont large crossover, but Mr Zanlunghi said it was “too early to tell” if more Fiats would be coming to benefit from the halo effect of the Abarth.
“The way that we are going to position it is as performance extension of the Fiat brand,” he said.
It is unlikely the Abarth will be able to match the sales of the mechanically related Mazda MX-5, which is available with two engine choices and two different specification levels, but its tally of 1290 to the end of September this year is an indication of the potential in the affordable sportscar segment.
While the Mazda is powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder or top-end 118kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol unit, the Abarth weighs in with a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine delivering 125kW/250Nm, as well as a host of other performance-enhancing features.
At the front end, the Italian version has red four-pot Brembo brake callipers with 280mm discs, Bilstein sport suspension all round and a mechanical limited-slip differential that sends power to the rear wheels.
Base versions get a six-speed manual gearbox, while an automatic with the same number of ratios is available for an extra $2000. In all cases the Abarth rolls on gun-metal-coloured 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/45 Bridgestone rubber.
With a kerb weight of just 1100kg, the Abarth 124 Spider does the zero to 100km/h dash in 6.8 seconds, or 6.9s for the auto, fuel consumption is rated at 6.5L/100km and 6.7L/100km respectively, and top speed is 232km/h and 229km/h.
A Sport mode allows the driver to select a heavier steering setting, the maximum 125kW, sharper throttle sensitivity and more playful ESC setting, while autos have steering wheel paddle shifters.
Quick acting customers will be able to secure themselves one of the 100 Launch Edition cars that add a light aesthetic tweak from the European parts catalogue, including red front bumper, mirror and towing point trims as well as an individually numbered interior plaque.
For the pure sportscar experience, the Abarth is equipped with a folding soft-top, which is manually operated for reduced weight and takes just three seconds to open, according to Abarth. A removable windbreak is fitted between the two headrests, while seat heaters are standard for cooler days.
Standard seats are dressed up in a mix of black leather and synthetic suede, but customers can upgrade to full leather in either black or black with red centre cushions, or a top-shelf Recaro seat in black leather and Alcantara with red piping.
A quad pipe sport exhaust is fitted to all versions but can be upgraded to a Monza system for more noise. Abarth has not revealed if the optional exhaust boosts performance as well.
Boot space measures 140 litres with extra centre storage between the two seats. Like the MX-5 there is no glove compartment.
Standard interior comfort kit includes keyless entry and start, reversing camera, Bose nine-speaker sound system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, rain-sensing wipers, navigation and a 7.0-inch touchscreen.
The 124 Spider is available in flat red and white for no extra cash or four optional metallic/pearl colours.
Safety features include all the usual electronic accoutrements including ESC that can be completely switched off, two front airbags and two side airbags which extend up to the roof for occupant head protection.
Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, LED headlights and rear parking sensors are optional.
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