The Fiat has a voluminous history of performance and style dating back over 50 years. This Italian gem was first introduced to North America in March 2011 and featured the Fiat 500c, 500 Abarth, 500e, 500L and the 500x. And for 2018-2019 they are reintroducing the Fiat 124 Spider for the current generation, featuring modern styling, engineering science and enhanced performance with traces of the original Italian roadster design.
The 2019 124 Spider is an Italian coupe/convertible roadster powered by a 1.4L Turbo Motor 6-speed manual/auto transmission, making it the most powerful 4-cylinder turbo in its category. Producing up to 164hp and 184 lb-ft of torque in the Abarth edition, it is uniquely responsive. Our test Abarth had added racing and performance characteristics that include upgraded aggressive racing facia, branded floor mats, Record Monza exhaust tuning kit and Recaro racing seats.
The other test vehicle was Fiat Abarth 500c – a stout, preppy looking vehicle upon first glance, really reminiscent of its predecessors that were designed to navigate the narrow roadways of Italy. But with closer inspection of the Abarth 500, you will notice subtle performance enhancements: 16-inch hyper black wheels; red brake calipers; Abarth bashing; performance spoiler; turbo boost gauge and dual bright exhaust tips. This affords it a rather large presence in a metropolis like Los Angeles, where the typically more car is better, but the fiat begs to differ.
At first glimpse, you wouldn’t think much of these vehicles from a performance standpoint. Withal, 360 Magazine was cordially invited to Willow Springs Raceway by Fiat Chrysler North America. And education was provided by Skip Barber Racing School to help us take full advantage of the performance capabilities introduced for the upcoming year.
The track day started off at the the rallycross. The rallycross is designed to highlight the braking and handling capabilities of the nimble go kart-like Fiats. With quick turns and short straight always you can feel exactly how balanced and responsive these vehicles are. With the 124’s front and rear Blistein sport suspension, mechanical limited slip differential and front strut tower bar paired with a Brembo braking system it allows the vehicle to perform as desired, a true one with the car experience.
Side by side, we were shuttled to the skid pad. Here, we were able to identify how the Fiat handles on slippery terrain in a tight circle. This course was created to heighten our connection to the throttle, steering wheel and our eyes. As we continued to increase in acceleration the Spider would start to lose grip as we tried to keep a tight radius, but thanks to accurate feedback from the steering rack, throttle and Brembo braking systems you are able to keep the vehicle in complete control.
Then it’s off to the track. This is where the real fun began. Both the 500 and 124 Spider performed astoundingly. A Dodge Hellcat was our pace car as a line of us followed in tandem around the streets of Willow Springs Raceway. It was an unbelievable experience to be able to push these vehicles to their limits, highlighting just how well these vehicles are engineered.
The 2019 Fiat 124 Spider starts standard at $24,995 or $27,795 for the Classica which adds some cosmetic upgrades and some convenience options. $29,290 for the Lusso which comes with the Abarth performance package. A big bang for the buck for a sporty iconic Italian vehicle.
The 2019 500c comes standard at $16,245 and the Abarth package coming in at $21,995. Apart from the aforementioned performance upgrades on the Abarth, it comes with a track experience! Yes, you can stretch your Fiat’s legs on the track like we did just so you can come to appreciate the unique design and performance capabilities that this vehicle was intended to express.