This is the interior of my 335xi. As you can see, the driver’s seat is reclined, but far from gangsta lean territory. Yesterday I test drove a Fiat 124 Abarth, and I genuinely believe I will never buy any car on the ND platform, because the seats don’t recline enough. WTF, Mazda?

I came away from my 124 Abarth test drive...conflicted and disappointed. I DD’ed a 1999 Miata 10th Anniversary Edition for 4 years.

Yes, I added the requisite 949 Racing 6UL wheels.

I weighed a lot more then than I do now, and yet I couldn’t get comfortable in the 124 Abarth. There was enough room to move around just fine, but my seating position was way too upright. I even tried sliding the seat forward so the back would be further from the bulkhead, hoping that would allow it to recline further. But no, the damn seat wouldn’t recline any more.

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Ok, yes, I’m not small, I’m 5'11" and 205 lbs but I’m athletic. I have abs, I don’t need to recline to make room for a potbelly.

Aside from that, I mostly liked the 124 Abarth, but I was disappointed by some basic screw-ups.

The handling was excellent as expected, but the ride was ridiculously stiff over bumps. Madison roads have lots of cracks and joints and tar strips and whatnot. My 335xi is lowered, with 19” summer tires, heim joint sway bar links, camber plates for upper shock mounts, and a bunch of hardened bushings. Sure, it has Koni FSD shocks that I chose because they have digressive pistons which help soften sharp impacts, but they’re still aftermarket performance shocks. My suspension is far from stock, to the point that when I drive my wife’s Subaru Impreza I’m like, “oh wow this is so nice and smooth,” and yet the stock 124 Abarth has much sharper impacts than my car over all the little road imperfections that are a part of daily life here.

The shifter’s throws are sufficiently short, but notchy and not smooth. I always loved my NB shifter but this shifter was not nearly as snick-snick as I remembered. I prefer the shifter in my 335xi. Sure the throws are longer and the gates are occasionally imprecise but overall it has a smoothness to it that the 124 Abarth sorely lacks. The transmission in the 124 is from the NC Miata, not the ND, but I dunno what was up with this shifter. It’s been several years since I’ve driven an NC but I remember back to back with my NB the shifter was fine.

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Lastly, blipping the throttle for downshifts produced...nothing. I had to give it way more gas than I’m used to to blip it. I’ve been blipping downshifts for years in all sorts of cars including my old NB and this was not the same.

In theory, the ND Club with the Brembo/BBS package might tick all the boxes for me aside from lacking some of the options I want like an auto-dimming mirror. It might even address most of the things I didn’t like about the 124 Abarth, because it has the revvier NA motor, maybe-better shifter, and apparently less-stiff suspension. BUT...unless the seats have more recline range, which I doubt, it’s still a non-starter for me.

Honestly, this test drive makes me want another NB, if anything. Hey, the 2003 Special Edition is even the same color scheme as my 335xi.