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