The first thing you need to know is this isn’t a Fiat. It may be based on a Fiat 124 but Abarth are a separate company, like Alpina to BMW or Brabus to Mercedes. The GT variant is the newest special addition on offer from the Italian racing brand, this model features a removable solid roof. When the roof is off, there’s nowhere to store it other than your home. Thankfully Abarth have fitted a hidden cloth roof in case you get caught up in a thunderstorm whilst out for a drive.
While the centre of gravity may have risen slightly thanks to the 16kg hardtop, the Italian still boasts a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. Other than the roof, no other changes have been made. The torsional rigidity is slightly improved by the solid roof, but remove it and you’ve got a purist’s car like the soft top; albeit 16kg lighter!
Whilst featuring no changes to the engine or exhaust system, having the roof on makes the driving experience a bit more subdued. More of the exhaust and engine noise is blocked out so you can forget about its shouty, raucous persona. On the motorway apart from the faintest wind rustle, you’d forget this car has a removable roof. The solid roof has the ability to transform this car, put it on and it’s more grown up than the soft top variant, take it off and you can hear that distinct Record Monza sports exhaust loud and clear.
The GT drives in the same way as the standard car. The acceleration is just as punchy, the gear changes are equally slick and the chassis allows you to have fun, it may be firm but there’s plenty of agility. Taller drivers will definitely struggle in the Abarth; the low roof just isn’t as accommodating as other cars on the market. The main issue is, the 124 GT shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it’s at its best with the roof down and exhaust screaming with the scenery blurred in your peripheral vision. By adding a ‘fixed’ roof, you’re trying to make it something it isn’t; a grown-up car. Without the canvas roof the car loses its charm, a sad thought, especially when you’re paying extra for it.
I remember the original 124 by Fiat, it was a great car! I feel they’ve managed to revive that classic car in the new 124; taking Mazda’s expertise was an excellent move too. The MX-5 is the best car in this sector and you can tell it has influenced this car too.’ Mark Roberts, Saxon Bridge.