A sun-loving Spider
For the first time in recorded history the arrival of a soft-top at Keenan Towers was greeted with sunny skies and not the hint of a cloud. Dropping the multi-layer canvas roof behind the cockpit, via an easy-to-use manual mechanism operated without leaving your seat, the stage was set for an inaugural summer drive al fresco.
Minus the usual cursing caused by rain marring another week with a car built for sunshine you can’t help but have your spirits lifted.
For there is something uncompromisingly happy about Fiat’s first roadster for more than a decade which sees the Italian marque delve back to the Swinging Sixties where its classic 124 Spider previously lived.
The modern interpretation is based on the Mazda MX-5 and it looks set to give the world-beater a run for its money.
The Spider is built alongside the MX-5 at the Mazda factory in Hiroshima but is demonstrably its own automobile as engine, gearbox, suspension and steering are Fiat specified.
The Italian motor manufacturer has turned the two-seater into a turbo with the 1.4-litre Fiat MultiAir engine ramped up to 140bhp. It can sprint from a standing start to 62mph in 7.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 134mph.
Fuel economy suffers when you inevitably put the pedal to the metal though. The claimed 44.1mpg is a distant dream as my week with the car was spent in the mid-30s. Running costs be damned though as this is a great motor to drive with ballerina-like balance and jet fighter reflexes demanding to be pushed to the limit.
Corners are a cakewalk while power pushed through the rear wheels and short-throw six-speed manual box ensure ecstasy for anyone lucky enough to be behind the wheel. It looks the business as well with Fiat restyling all the body panels and stretching the Spider so it is 5.5-inches longer. It looks unique with sharp lines and a pleasing face making it irresistible to the neighbours.
While the exterior keeps its distance from the MX-5, the interior reflects its origins with the dashboard boasting a display screen operated from a control panel in the centre console.
The radio was a bit fiddly as the station search function kept taking you back to the top of a very long list which you then had to scroll through to reach the desired station. As the stations I wanted to listen to were in the middle of this list it was a tad frustrating.
That said the cabin is well set out with care taken on fit and finish while the seats are figure-hugging and comfortable.
Three versions of the 124 Spider are offered with the flagship Lusso Plus trim I drove having sat nav, a reversing camera, automatic operation for lights and wipers, natty LED headlamps, heated leather seats, splashes of chrome for the exhausts and rollover bars, as well as a Bose sound system.
Storage space is limited, as it is in the MX-5, with no glovebox or door pockets while a small cubby hole under the centre armrest and a box in the rear bulkhead supply space for your bits and bobs.
The boot is surprisingly roomy as it is quite deep so can cope with two overnight bags without getting into a lather. Stowing the hood has no impact on the 140 litres of space available.
Aside from falling into the lowslung car and needing a crane to get me out of it, I’ve finally found one Spider I can love as it is a super roadster that is a pleasure to drive.
TEST DRIVE FIAT 124 SPIDER 1
Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 MultiAir Lusso Plus £24,255 140bhp, 1,368cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox 134mph 7.5 seconds 44.1 26 148g/km 28% 3yrs / unlimited miles