Ex­pert roofer

Fiat 124 Lusso Plus £23,295 OTR/£23,645 as tested

Top Gear (UK) - - GARAGE - STEPHEN DOBIE

Bas­ing your af­ford­able road­ster on a Mazda MX-5 is a very clever move. And not just for its ap­proach­able rear-drive chas­sis and weight-saving wis­dom. Nope, it’s also smart be­cause you get a very ac­com­plished lit­tle cabrio.

While Fiat has plonked on new lights, badges and bumpers, it’s been very sen­si­ble and left the MX-5’s roof well alone. A roof which re­mains a glo­ri­ously sim­ple fab­ric set-up. You might ask for a fold­ing time in sec­onds, a num­ber of­ten traded be­tween fancier, fold­ing hard-top ri­vals. With no elec­tron­ics at play, the Fiat’s (and Mazda’s) roof folds as fast as your hand can un­clip it from the wind­screen and fing it back­wards. For me, it’s three sec­onds.

Open­ing it is easy right up to 30mph; pulling it closed is best re­served for slow trafc or a stand­still. But ei­ther is so sim­ple, you won­der why elec­tronic roofs are so ubiq­ui­tous else­where. Just a mi­nor quib­ble: the win­dows drop au­to­mat­i­cally when you un­latch the roof, to make the op­er­a­tion eas­ier, but you have to whirr them back up with the switches af­ter­wards. I know, hard times.

The 124 ar­rived with the spring sun, so I’ve learned a lot about how it per­forms with the roof stowed. Up to 60mph, very well in­deed: like most two-seaters, you’re nicely co­cooned in­side, so very lit­tle wind reaches the in­te­rior. You need to crank the heater right up when it drops be­low 10°C, mind, and fur­ther to­wards zero you’ll want some­thing woolly. But un­less it’s rain­ing, this is a great all-sea­son soft-top.

With caveats. As you ap­proach the na­tional speed limit, the blus­ter­i­ness grows and the stereo – or your con­ver­sa­tion – will be drowned out. Drive a long dis­tance with a mate and you’ll want the roof up. Any­one over 6ft, mean­while, will fnd their fore­head is di­rectly catch­ing the wind. As a 5ft9in shorty, though, I’m OK. And all told, the roof’s down more than it’s up so far…

Win­dows don’t re­turn to po­si­tion un­less you pull the switches. #first­world­prob­lems

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