A sun-lov­ing Spi­der

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Keenan

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

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