Fiat 124 Spider -

First Drive

Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, front, action
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, side, action
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, front
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, rear
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, side, hood up
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, rear, hood up
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, dashboard
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, centre console
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, interior
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, cubby
Fiat 124 Spider, 2016, boot
Fiat 124, 1966, with Fiat 124 Spider, 2016
Fiat 124, 1966, interior
Abarth 124 Spider, 2016, side action

WITH its sister ship acclaimed as the best car in the world Fiat is reviving a name from the Swinging Sixties in the shape of the new 124 Spider.

Based on the Mazda MX-5 - the current World Car of the Year - the 124 is the Italian marque's first roadster for more than a decade.

Its last offering, the Barchetta, went off the scene in 2005 and available only in left hand drive was one for the real enthusiasts in Britain.

The Spider is much more mainstream and priced from £19,545 is out to give the Mazda a run for its money with Fiat turning the two seater into a turbo.

Under the bonnet of the 124 Spider is a 1.4-litre Fiat MultiAir engine boosted to 140ps.

It gives the Spider plenty of get up and go - 0 to 60 takes 7.2 seconds and the car tops out at 134mph.

That's a fraction quicker than a 2.0-litre range-topping MX-5 but while on paper the Spider matches its Japanese counterpart for economy - its rated at 44.1mpg with emissions of 148g/km - it proved thirsty when put through its paces through the countryside of northern Italy.

On a 100 mile drive around the Lake Garda area the 124 Spider could muster an average of only 24.5mpg.

The car is built alongside the MX-5 at the Mazda factory in Hiroshima but not only has Fiat fitted its own engine there's a different gearbox and changes to the suspension and steering.

The Spider is delightfully spritely to drive, jinking through corners and delivering the best from its short-throw, six speed box and rear-wheel-drive set up.

Fiat has restyled every body panel on the car to accommodate the changes. The Spider is some 5.5-inches longer and looks every bit a modern interpretation of the classic 124 launched back in 1966.

The hood is manual but simple to operate, stowing in seconds behind the cockpit without impacting on boot space which is 140 litres. That sounds tight but the boot is relatively deep and will take two good-sized bags with ease.

Sharp lines make the Spider a good looking car and quite different from the Mazda in all departments.

Inside, it is much more in keeping with the Japanese model with the dash centred on a stand-up display screen operated from a control panel in the centre console.

Like the MX-5, there's no glovebox or door pockets and onboard storage is limited to a small compartment under the centre armrest and a slightly large box in the rear bulkhead.

Even in the roadster fraternity that is on the Spartan side - but realistically that is the only gripe.

If anything the 124 is edgier than the MX-5 but both are terrific to drive and for the money are top class motors which tick all the boxes for Britain's army of soft-top fans.

Unlike Mazda, Fiat says it has no plans for a coupe convertible version but it does intend to offer an automatic option - eventually.

Three trims will be available topping out at £23,295 for one in Lusso Plus trim which comes with adaptive LED headlamps, automatic lights and wipes and a Bose sound system on top of sat nav, a reversing camera, heated leather seats and chrome finishes for the exhausts and rollover bars.

The touchscreen is a £500 extra on the base model.

And for those who really want to turn up the heat, the Italians will be introducing a high performance Abarth 124 with the engine uprated to 170hp - that's a neat 124 horsepower per litre.

The Abarth, with even meatier body styling is slated to arrive around the same time as the 124 Spider in September and its extra clout sees the entry-level price rising to £29,800.

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