There is nothing quite like a convertible when the sun reluctantly decides to show its face and Fiat have been missing from this scenario since 2005, when the Barchetta rolled off the production line for the last time.
Unfortunately, when reviewing such cars, it has to be done months earlier in the depths of ‘so called’ Spring. Actually, for me the best time is actually in the middle of the night with the heater going and the stars overhead, blasting around country lanes.
If you like the Mazda MX5, then there is nothing not to like about the new Fiat 124 Spider as that is what it is but, after a little Italian tinkering, the 124 was born. It get a new engine and suspension and, most importantly, a new body. A sexier, more agile body.
The first thing to say is that is tiny. Of course, it is designed to be a compact 2-seater sports car that will take two people and an overnight bag but the lack of any type of interior storage is just awful. There is nowhere to put anything. No glove box, no door compartments, not even a place for the keys as with starter buttons, keys are pretty much redundant these days. That said, it is a lot of fun and harks back to the 60’s when such sports cars were all the rage.
The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is mated to a good old fashioned manual gearbox and a large handbrake that allows for handbrake turns, which is also something from the past. It’s easier to drive than the MX5 and it’s not Japanese, so that’s a good thing. The MX5 is naturally aspirated whereby the 124 is turbo so the lag is there but it does like to be thrashed round the country lanes and you can’t help but smile. The 0-60 times ain’t too shabby at 7.3 seconds and the 6-speed box is crisp and easy to operate. The pedal spacing is good allowing toe/heel rapid operation which again, harks back to ye olde days.
The new suspension works well and solves the Mazda’s tendency to roll in the corners and its small size makes it supremely easy to manoeuvre around town. Inside, it’s compact. If you are over 6’ you will struggle to find a comfortable driving position and getting out involves some pre-arranged twisting or falling out in my case. If you have a dodgy hip, go buy another car.
The 7-inch touchscreen does what it should and l like the Satnav as it just gives you short sharp instructions with little faffing around. The seats are well built, the leathers decent and although it’s great when the tops down, when up, it is a tad dark and dingy in there and a little claustrophobic.
All in all this is a cracking little car for those that have no kids, no luggage, no drinks, no tissues, no keys and no hip problems. Would l buy this over the Mazda MX5 – every day of the week.
Model tested: Fiat 124 Spider
Engine: 1.4-litre Multiair turbo
Performance: 0-62mph 7.5 seconds
Top Speed: 134mph
Economy: 44.1mpg combined