The Fiat 124 Spider has already been pitted against Mazda MX-5 many times on the road, but how do they compare on the track? We decided to find out, on the tight, tenacious Blyton Park racetrack in Lincolnshire. If ever a place were made for a playful little roadster, it’s this.
OK, we didn’t test like with like. The 124 Spider was a 138bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre, whereas the MX-5 was a 2.0-litre Sport Recaro edition complete with 158bhp, Bilstein dampers and limited-slip differential.
This is why, against the clock, the MX-5 was 2.5 seconds faster per lap. The Fiat is 20bhp down and it feels like more, as the Mazda is quite the performer.
And the Mazda’s clear advantage didn’t end there. It’s hardly a Caterham Seven, but it still has excellent body control, can be steered on the throttle and pointed accurately into corners, while body control is excellent.
The Fiat, in comparison, is softer and soggier. It rolls more in corners and the nose dives under braking. Really, despite being derived directly from the Mazda, it’s a different car entirely, aimed at a different market.
This is actually good news though. We were fearful the Fiat would feel a facsimile of the Mazda, but it’s nothing of the sort. Both have their own characters – it’s just that in these circumstances, the Mazda’s character is better-suited to the conditions.
Fiat has an answer though. The Abarth version of the 124 Spider is on the way which give the sporty MX-5 a much sterner challenge. Track test take two? Watch this space.