This Spider has legs
Fiat’s new 124 Spider, marking the 50th anniversary of the original, may be based on Mazda’s MX-5 but has a character all of its own, says motoring editor ANDY RUSSELL
FIAT HAS built some cracking sports cars and, 50 years after the original Fiat 124 Spider was launched, it has done it again – with help from Mazda. The new 124 Spider is based on the MX-5 soft-top, sharing its chassis and cockpit, but has its own character. Longer and slightly wider, it’s a modern interpretation of its predecessor, making it look more squat and mature than the MX-5.
UNDER THE BONNET
The standard 124 Spider uses the zesty 140hp 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine – the sportier Abarth the 170hp version – which has a flexible, relaxed power delivery but revs eagerly when unleashed and it’s so much fun keeping the engine spinning sweetly via the snappy, six-speed gearshift.
HOW IT DRIVES
The Fiat sports car feels more softly-sprung that the MX-5 so it’s more compliant and more comfortable as a long-distance cruiser and will still put a huge smile on your face on twisty roads but, ultimately, it’s not quite as agile as the shorter Mazda. But the Fiat has the best view – looking along that long, fluted bonnet is just wonderful and helps make it easy to place on the road.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
It’s easy to make the most of the wind-in-the-hair driving experience. Getting the soft top up and down involves one catch, one hand and takes seconds and it clips down neatly behind the headrests. Put the efficient heater on and windows up, pop a hat on and, even on clear, frosty day you can enjoy top-down motoring.
Apart from the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, the interior is straight out of the MX-5 – no bad thing as it’s clean, fuss-free and easy to use. The cabin is snug, without being cramped, and the 140-litre boot – 10 more than the Mazda – will hold enough for a long weekend for two if you pack carefully with soft bags.
Entry-level Classica includes four airbags, air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, 16in alloy wheels, keyless ignition and Bluetooth.
Lusso adds a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, satellite navigation, rear parking camera, 17in alloys, heated leather seats, climate control, front fog lamps and keyless entry.
Range-topping Lusso Plus gains adaptive LED headlights, LED running lights, automatic lights and wipers and nine-speaker Bose sound system with headrest speakers.
This new Fiat sports car has really got legs… it’s not a Spider that’s going to scare you away.