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Fiat 124 Spider a web of pure fun

Fiat 124 Spider a web of pure fun

Peter Hayward, 2017-12-06

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I'M one of those nutcases who, when driving a car with a folding roof, has it down all the time if the weather's dry - whatever the time of year.

As long as I'm wearing a coat, gloves, scarf and hat I'm rarely cold - even in the depths of winter.

Some up-market open tops like Mercedes keep you warm with air conditioned seats and have hot air coming out at neck level to minimise the outside temperature.

This really works, although most owners would never think of having the roof down in the winter.

The delightful Fiat 124 Spider has just a normal heater, but I drove it topless without feeling cold at all.

This spiritual successor to the Barchetta of a few years ago and of the original 124 Spider from the 1970s, is hugely enjoyable to drive, with light weight and a reasonably powerful engine giving great acceleration.

But that light weight also tells in the handling and road holding, which are absolutely superb.

The Spider is the result of a collaboration between Mazda and Fiat and underneath that beautiful body lurks the excellent MX-5's chassis and suspension.

But no body panels are common between the two cars - an effort by Fiat to separate its sportster from the all-conquering Mazda.

Under the bonnet is the well tried and tested Fiat/Alfa 1.4 turbo petrol engine and it feels very different to the Mazda to drive.

The power comes in much earlier - as you might expect with a turbo engine - instead of at high revs as with the MX-5.

This will suit many drivers because it's the kind of response they are used to. It means you can progress with fewer gear changes if you want to - even though the short throw, delightful gearchange just begs to be used.

The engine is smooth and refined and has enough power for just about any need.

And the handling is superb, with very direct, point and shoot power steering and an ability to change direction as quick as thought on dry roads.

It was pure joy to drive and I couldn't get enough of it, with easy overtaking on every straight stretch and not much buffeting from the passing air with the hood down.

The ride is jinky and unsettled in town - it is a sportscar after all - but it smoothes out by 40 to 50mph.

Out in the real world, I got an average of 37.7mpg, which is very good for such a sporting car.

And the manual hood can be put down or up from the driver's seat and takes about three seconds.

Fast Facts

Price: £23,800

Mechanical: 140bhp, 1,368cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 7.3 seconds

Combined MPG:44

Insurance Group: 26

C02 emissions: 148g/km

Bik rating: 28%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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