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Author Topic: Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5  (Read 2297 times)

Offline Dynamic Turtle

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Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5
« on: September 05, 2017, 12:06:32 am »
Heya,

Not posted before but spent a lot of time recently test driving various Fiata configs and wanted to share my thoughts with you, hopefully it might help you with some buying decisions!

Mazda:

1.5 Rag Sport - Best fun-per-pound you can buy? I disagree that the 1.5 is "revvier" than the 2.0, the reviews will make you think it reaches for the redline like a GT3RS. It just doesn't make a nice enough sound in the last 1000rpm to be rewarding. Having said that, it's nicer than the turbo 3-pot in the Fiesta ST but maybe not quite as rorty as the 595 Comp. The 1.5 just feels that little (tiny) bit gutless - a bit like having an angry bee under the hood rather than an engine. Still great value at £19k though. Previous car was circa 225bhp/ton with 285lbft so this may have clouded my view on the 1.5 somewhat - I understand the benefit of its application though and the VFM it represents.

2.0 Rag Sport - Much better engine IMO. The extra pull in the low gears helps and it just sounds sportier/meatier both in terms of induction and exhaust. You don't feel the extra 25kg near the front axle either. The soft top is a bit quieter than the RF roof down, but top-up it's just too noisy at motorway speeds and would seriously get on my nerves. Then you've got the hassle of stains, wear and security to worry about.

2.0 RF Sport - Top up it's far nicer top-up at 80mph on the motorway which makes it the best choice for me. I do my Sunday hoons around the South Downs but they're still an hour away and this needs to be an all-year second car. People moan about the wind buffeting but it only gets unruly over 65mph. Note that the buffeting seems to push wind behind your head and down your neck which is actually very refreshing. You don't get that with the soft top and the noise difference is relatively marginal between the two, top-down/windows up. 13 seconds is no hardship and shorter than any red signal :)

Both Rag and RF really struggled with damping on the concrete sections of the M25 (between A22 & M4), making a truly horrid resonance, otherwise the ride quality is superb in both. The RF feels noticeable more tied-down and the more sorted chassis - that said I have come from a car with very little body roll and good grip so maybe it's the feeling I've been conditioned to. The ragtop feels a bit sloppier - particularly more pitch & roll in the 1.5 for some reason. Fun at roundabouts though!

Abarth Spyder - test drove today for about an hour, mix of extra urban, roundabouts and motorway but no B-roads sadly. Unlike the MX5 test drives it was accompanied, adding about 85kg which may have dulled performance a tad.

Looks - An acquired taste and I like both in their own way. The Spyder looks a tad more masculine, has lovely headlights and without the gaudy black vinyl looks nice in blue, red and grey. They are bringing out a "Scorpione" version soon in pure black which looks the business. It lacks the MX5's Kei car delicacy and the cool RF butresses but the bonnet length isn't a distraction (in context against normal cars it's still tiny). The alloys are a bit meh - prefer the Mazda's. Nice to see some proper 4-pot Brembos behind the though rather than the horrid grey floating calipers of the MX5. The interior is much, much better than the MX5. Gorgeous ribbed seats, alcantara everywhere, nicer gearknob, wheel leather, red rev counter and alloy pedals. Win for Fiat.

Engine - Now this is a tough one. The Abarth has little 2k then pulls nicely through 2nd & 3rd, but does run out of verve slightly in the last 500-750rpm. The drama and pull is in the midrange as you'd expect for little tubby. In terms of noise, the Skyactive's induction pipe helps bring lovely noise into the cabin while the Abarth majors on a flipping awesome exhaust rasp, crackle and bangs. Contrived? Maybe, but it sounds better than the 2.0 Skyactive with the top down, meatier with the top up and generates a lot more attention and looks than the MX5s ever did. People familiar with the 595 Comp / Record Monza setup will know it - I think it sounds great. So depending on your induction/exhaust preference you now have a choice. The 2.0 Sky is the sweeter lump and doesn't seem to give up much torque wise off paper.  Note that the SkyActive is likely to be more economical on fuel - flicking the Abarth's sport switch keeps the turbo spooled at a higher RPM (albeit still resulting in a slightly muted throttle response) but kills polar bears in the process. Overall the Mazda "feels" faster but it might be bum-dyno given the sportier rather than GT like delivery.

Gearbox - Pretty similar but it seems to take a bit longer to warm up being a tad notchier to begin with but settles into a lovely smooth action. It has a slightly meatier shift action compared to the Mazda which feels like you're holding a pencil sometimes, but still slots away lovely shifts every time. The gearknob feels nicer in the hand (oo-err) but the clutch action and bite point will take a little more familiarisation and practise.

Handling - Feels slightly stiffer than the 2.0 RF. The damping is slightly less forgiving and the springs are harder so body roll is very controlled, but not to the point of harshness. I've come from a very stiff/tied-down car so it feels fine to me. I think the perfect balance is somewhere between the RF and Spyder - they RF feels a tad more chuckable but it comes with a slightly less composure. The Abarth gives me more high speed confidence though. Steering feel is fine - very similar to the MX5 IMHO. The wheel itself is slightly thicker and has nicer leather so it feels better in the hands. Didn't really give the brembos a good test but there's still limited brake pedal travel like the standard floating calipers. Brake stability is superb with no fishtailing as per the Mazda.

NVH - Now there might be something in the aerodynamic design of the bonnet and mirrors but there's less buffeting hood down and up in the Abarth which is something I wasn't expecting. Maybe there's more padding in the roof liner too? It felt quieter at 80mph than the MX5 which is bizarre and only really became obtrusive approaching 90mph. Ive noticed that it does somewhat depend on the wind direction Obviously with the top up there's less buttress turbulence than the RF. What it doesn't have is the lovely induction noise of the 2.0's soundpipe and the Multiair could not be confused for a V6 Busso. The Abarth cabin is filled with the sound of a rorty exhaust instead!

VFM/Cost - Rumour is that Fiat priced themselves out so the new Scorpione edition is £3k cheaper (£27.1k) losing nothing in the process. This massively sucks for early adopters but is good news for us. The only catch is that you can chose black or white paint, and can't spec the ribbed red leather seats any more, but get Alcantara instead (which is fine by me). You also get £1500 dealer contribution (plus £300-400 of wiggle room) taking you down to £25.2k. This is still a £3.5k premium to the 2.0 soft top Mazda so I'm not saying it's good value on a relative basis but you may think the extra trimmings are worth it. Financing plans are a deep subject and not very interesting to discuss s I'l leave that for another thread. Otherwise it's probably going to be a bit pricier than the mazda to run in terms of fuel economy, servicing (9k miles vs 12k mile intervals) and in particular Abarth parts prices which have a silly sticker premium, if you plan to keep long term.

Cheers,
DT

AbarthForum.co.uk

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    Offline AusAbarth

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    Re: Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5
    « Reply #1 on: September 05, 2017, 05:14:43 am »
    Great review !!! 

    I agree with all that was said .......and I ended up with a A124.  Yes they need work - but that was part of the appeal for me as I went through a similar  modding journey with my A5oo
    So Loving Ruby

    Offline Dynamic Turtle

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    Re: Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5
    « Reply #2 on: September 05, 2017, 10:37:26 am »
    Great review !!! 

    I agree with all that was said .......and I ended up with a A124.  Yes they need work - but that was part of the appeal for me as I went through a similar  modding journey with my A5oo

    Thanks Carlo, what upgrades have yo made to it? I've heard remapping delivers very limited benefits (+15bhp?) and the best mod is bolting a bigger turbo to it (GT1752?) but that sounds like an expensive and risky thing if done badly...

    I think the chassis on the A124 is fine but it could do with lower springs - looks too floaty. I wonder if the BBR springs would work without requiring too much geometry adjustment?

    Offline PORTHOS

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    Re: Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5
    « Reply #3 on: September 10, 2017, 10:07:34 am »
    Great write up there :)

    Offline fpan

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    Re: Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5
    « Reply #4 on: September 10, 2017, 08:12:43 pm »
    Very good review, thanks for sharing.

    Offline flozgk

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    Re: Reviews of Abarth Spyder and Mazda RF/MX-5
    « Reply #5 on: September 11, 2017, 12:15:14 pm »
    Just got my Abarth 124 the other day and would very much agree with your reviews of the various options. There is a fairly chunky premium to be paid for the Abarth but you get a lot of pretty special kit for your money!

    If you switch up your thinking and assume Abarth aren't really competing with the MX5 and 124, but are aiming at a category above, there really isn't much very inspiring in the 30K price range for small sports cars with reasonable running costs and some limited practicality: Very basic BMW Z4, BMW 318 conv, 125i, Basic TT... excellent cars but I personally decided not to bother with test drives! The Porsche boxer etc are significantly more new. I am personally glad to be driving something a little rarer...

    Something to watch - I am fairly sure, after looking into it quite a bit on the website that the Scorpione edition DOESNT have the brembo brakes, (my dealer where unaware, confirmed it...) As I was going to go down that route, but did wonder how alcantara seats can be THAT much cheaper!!





    124 Abarth spider Blue/heritage