Combining all the finest qualities that a roadster brings to the mix, the Fiat 124 Spider looks beautifully crafted, boasts outstanding driving dynamics, is packed with technology and has plenty of Italian flair.
The goodStyling, performance and pricing
The badFeels a little vulnerable on wet windy motorways
Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 MultiAir Turbo Lusso Plus
There is definitely something wrong with our climate! For as long as I can remember, every time I have tested out a two-seater convertible in the past, Mother Nature has thrown everything she’s got in my direction. There’s been thunder storms, lightning strikes, gale force winds, biblical downpours and even snow drifts. But not this time.
For a whole week, I was blessed with brilliant sunshine, dry grippy roads and not a glimmer of bad weather on the horizon, and they are the perfect driving conditions for wind-in-the-hair, roof-down motoring.
Despite us Brits having a long-standing love affair with open-tops and their amazing driver engagement, the choice is quite restricted…unless you have unlimited funds in the bank that is.
Of course, one name immediately springs to mind – that of the Mazda MX-5. But there is another very accomplished car that’s vying for sales and it offers the same all-round appeal and fun-factor as its Japanese rival. It’s from Fiat and called the 124 Spider, which is name that that has been revived by the Italian marque.
Coincidently it shares the same platform as the MX-5 and if all the badging were removed, it could easily be mistaken for the Mazda. But the 124 Spider, which is slightly larger, is capable of standing its own ground and has a number of design cues guaranteed to grab your attention.
As one might imagine, it looks amazing from any angle thanks to its sleek streamlined body, beautiful curves, rippled bonnet, LED headlights with daytime running lights, chrome twin tail pipes, silver roll bars and smart 17-inch alloys.
The interior is upmarket yet simplistic in its layout with a cosy cockpit featuring leather sports seats. There is enough space for two adults so long as they don’t pack too much luggage. That’s because space is minimal within the 124 Spider. There’s no glovebox or door pockets, but there is a storage box behind the front seats. There’s also a small compartment beneath the armrest and two cup holders that are quite precariously perched and would be suitable for cold drinks only! The boot is compact in its size with a 140-litre capacity, but that’s perfectly adequate for a couple of soft holdalls or overnight bags.
There’s plenty of top-notch, on-board technology to explore such as a seven-inch colour touchscreen, a pitch perfect BOSE sound system, Bluetooth with WiFi connectivity, heated seats, a navigation system with 3D maps, a rear parking camera and a leather steering wheel with audio controls.
The roof is raised and lowered manually but this is a very simple one-handed process that can be carried out from the driver’s seat and takes a matter of seconds to lock into place.
Our rear-wheel drive 124 Spider cost £25,605 which included the option of metallic paint priced at £550. It was powered by a punchy 1.4-litre 140hp MultiAir Turbo petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and could reach 62mph from a standing start in 7.5 seconds and topped out at 134mph. According to official figures the car can deliver combined fuel economy of 44.1mpg with carbon emissions of 148g/km.
But it’s the manner in which the 124 Spider handles that cannot fail to impress. Just like the MX-5, it’s a pure driver’s car and delivers on all counts. It’s a vehicle that can be thrown into bends and corners with a high degree of confidence and there is a constant supply of power on tap which helps make very light work of overtaking as you fire through the gears.
The engine delivers rapid acceleration and the suspension helps to iron out some of the bumps and dips along the way. However, if comfort is high on your wish-list, then maybe it’s best you think again. That’s because you sit just inches above the Tarmac so you will experience a number of bone-rattling jolts on your journey which is mainly due to the poor state of our roads rather than the car.
The 124 Spider’s steering offers plenty of driver feedback and with the top down and the sun shining, it’s the perfect car for a long drive in the countryside – preferably on some quiet lanes. You can expect quite a noisy trip with a fair amount of road surface and engine noise filtering through into the cabin even with the roof raised, but it’s all part and parcel of owning a sporty, open-top, two-seater that boasts a lot more positives than negatives.
All in all, the Fiat 124 Spider is a brilliant piece of kit that drives as dynamically as it looks. What it does have as an advantage over the MX-5 though is a little more exclusivity, so you will certainly turn heads as you drive past.
Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 140bhp
Mention two-seater sports cars with a price-tag that doesn’t leave you surviving on bread and water for the next 10 years and the Mazda MX-5 immediately springs to mind, but there is another kid on the block and it’s truly brilliant.
It shares the same platform as the Mazda and if all the badging were taken away from both cars it would be tricky to tell them apart, but the Fiat 124 Spider has a more mysterious feel to it.
Its styling takes influences from its 1966 predecessor with a stretched bonnet, low centre of gravity, beautifully sculpted lines, 17-inch alloys, LED headlights with daytime running lights, chrome double exhaust pipe and a silver windscreen frame.
The car is slightly larger than its Japanese counterpart, and once you step inside the Spider the build quality also seems superior with heated leather seats, a piano black dashboard trim, upholstered lower dashboard, upholstered instrument cluster hood and leather steering wheel and gear knob.
The car is generously equipped with all the latest technology, including a 7-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, USB ports, a pitch perfect Bose sound system with nine speakers (four of which are integrated into the headrests), rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and plenty more besides.
The fabric roof can easily be lowered with one hand in a matter of seconds and tucks away neatly into a compartment behind the seats. Raising the roof again is also a simple process which is just as well with our weather!
Admittedly roadsters are not the most practical of cars and the 140-litre boot space isn’t exactly massive, but it’s large enough to hold some overnight bags and in addition there is a lockable storage area between the two seats.
The test car, powered by a 1.4-litre 140bhp petrol engine, was priced at £23,295 but the option of metallic paint added a further £500 to the cost. It could sprint from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, topped out at 134mph and according to official figures, delivered combined fuel economy of 44.1mpg with carbon emissions of 148g/km.
One of the most rewarding features on the Spider is that its performance matches its styling. It looks like a sports car and handles like one too. And being a rear wheel-drive model it delivers the most thrilling of drives. The six-speed manual gearbox is super slick and the acceleration is fast – it actually feels even quicker when you are sat inches from the Tarmac.
The suspension is quite hard and the car is pretty noisy when pushed hard, but in all honesty these are factors that boost the car’s appeal rather than dampen it. Comfort levels are surprisingly good and the dynamics cannot fail to make you grin. The road-holding is excellent with a little rear end twitching if thrown too enthusiastically into tight bends.
The Spider is also kitted out with a comprehensive array of safety features including electronic stability control, front and side airbags, cruise control with speed limiter and roll bars.
So the latest Fiat Spider is quite the all-rounder. It looks amazing, drives beautifully, is packed with kit and should the sun show signs of putting in an appearance, then it’s simply a case of down with the roof for that ultimate wind-in-the-hair roadster experience.