Alfresco motoring is a joyous thing and something that, despite our vast quantity of rain, is very popular here in the UK. The second moisture stops falling from the sky, it is a case of dropping the top and feeling the wind in your hair. Fiat have a long history of producing convertibles and 50 years ago this year they launched the 124 Spider. Collaborating with Mazda, the new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider not only revives the nameplate, but also brings some Italian style to the road.
Just take a moment to soak in the sheer beauty of this car. I have yet to see a picture that does the 124 justice as it is bite the back of your hand handsome in the metal. Curvaceous, charismatic, and full of charm, this little sports car turns many heads. Finished in Italia Blue, our top specification model looks equally at home in our British countryside as it does on the fashion conscious streets of Italy. Its long bonnet feature bulges and the short rear overhang is classic two-seater. Its design is a modern interpretation of the original of which conveys the grace of its forefather.
Those familiar with the current generation Mazda MX-5 will feel at home in the snug interior of the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. It’s basic architecture is the same and it shares features such as infotainment system, steering wheel, as well as its dashboard. However, Fiat has placed its own stamp on this platform with Tobaco leather, softer touch points, and higher quality materials. Where the MX-5 feel durable, the Fiat has more personality. Visibility is good for a sports car and the low slung seating position promotes a connection between man and machine. A 130 litre boot is big enough for a couple of weekend bags. A simple manual roof mechanism means that it takes just seconds to be stowed and can even be done with one hand.
Under the shapely bonnet is a 1.4 litre turbo unit that sends power to the rear wheels via a slick 6 speed manual transmission. 140hp enables the car to complete 0-62 MPH in 7.5 seconds. Many outlets have cited the softer setup on the Fiat 124 Spider as the key thing that differentiates it from its MX-5 sibling, however, I think this has been somewhat over emphasised. It is true that overall the Spider has a cosseting suspension setup and that just off centre there is less steering feedback, but it is the mid-range torque from the aforementioned turbocharged engine that makes the biggest change. Revving the nuts off of the Mazda is good fun, but the Fiat is more flexible thanks to 240Nm. Once that turbo is on song the car pulls strongly and half of the fun in the Spider is keeping the turbo spooled up. Acceleration starts to fade higher in the rev range and so a satisfying short shift keeps up momentum. The steering is precise as it weights up just off of centre. There is some body roll as you pitch into a corner but this also makes the motion of the car predictable as you feel the weight transfer. Great brakes, sweet gear changes, and plenty of torque to leap from apex to apex makes this car an absolute joy to drive. Settle down and you will notice that the Fiat 124 is actually rather refined with its suspension doing a good job on our far from smooth British roads. Road and wind noise are kept in check and with a powerful heater you can stay warm with the roof down even on a chilly day.
Scything through the mountainous Welsh countryside on some of the best roads in the UK, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider felt very complete. It offers the keen driving of the MX-5 teamed with a more civilised overall demeanour. Yes, the Mazda is a bit sharper but arguably it’s the Fiat that is the better all-rounder. You can have a 124 Spider from £19,545.