Fiat 124 Spider

Lusso 1.4 MultiAir

Turbo

Fiat 124 Spider, action front 2
Fiat 124 Spider, rear action hood
Fiat 124 Spider, action front
Fiat 124 Spider, action side
Fiat 124 Spider, dashboard
Fiat 124 Spider, static rear
Fiat 124 Spider, action rear
Fiat 124 Spider, seat detail

YOU know the sports car dream - long evenings of soft English sunshine with the hood down and a romantic country cottage for two at journey's end.

Or there's the reality. Seven consecutive days of hard frost with odd interludes of sleet and snow to add a bit of interest.

A sports car that could survive that week-long chill and emerge smiling must have something going for it. Which the new Fiat 124 Spider most certainly does.

Reviving a famous name from the Swinging Sixties, the newcomer takes its looks from that car but nothing else, except perhaps a certain attitude to enjoying your time at the wheel.

In fact, there's a lot of something else beneath the Spider's handsome shape, where important bits of the world's best selling sports car, the Mazda MX-5 are hidden.

Indeed, the 124 Spider is built alongside the MX-5 in Mazda's Japanese factory and even uses that car's interior with only modest changes to hopefully give a sort of Italianate feel to proceedings.

Much more important is a change you won't spot without lifting the bonnet; there's a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine lurking there, not the 1.5 or 2.0-litre non-turbos offered by Mazda.

And that has a profound effect on the way the 124 Spider drives. It produces a bit more power than Mazda's smaller engine and a bit less than the larger one.

Much more important is the way adding a turbo has produced lots of low down pulling power. The MX-5 motors need revs to get them going, which you may think is the essence of sporty motoring.

But the Fiat demands less use of its superbly crisp gearchange for results; the engine pulling from lower revs with a properly sporting noise and enough push to surprise.

The Spider is a tiny bit larger than the Mazda, but the same quoted weight and feels every centimetre the lively companion you hoped for while slipping into the thinly padded driving seat.

Once suitably set up you'll find a cockpit that doesn't waste any space and which will make a six-footer feel snug.

Within the confines of such a smallish car, there are welcome attempts at adding practicality with storage boxes between the seats and on the bulkhead behind them.

The boot is a bit larger than Mazda offers and enough for a couple of squashy overnight bags and the odd pair of shoes besides. In other words, you don't have to sacrifice all the conveniences of a civilised life for a weekend away.

You won't miss out either on the sort of indulgence that makes modern motoring a more comfortable business. Gone are the hair shirt days of sport car ownership, with even the least expensive Classica model (£20,995) having air conditioning, cruise control and 16in alloy wheels as standard.

The £23,745 Lusso adds larger alloys, satellite navigation, climate control, fog lamps and rear parking camera, while the £24,995 Lusso Plus tops out the range and adds LED headlamps, auto lights and wipers and a nine speaker Bose sound system.

This latter feature will have a harder time making itself heard than in, say, a tin top hatchback. The canvas roof on the 124 Spider folds back in seconds without a driver needing to leave the seat, but it's always going to make more noise than a roof you can't remove. Call it part of the sports car pedigree.

FAST FACTS

Fiat 124 Spider Lusso 1.4 MultiAir Turbo

Price: £23,745

Mechanical: 138bhp, 1,368cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 7.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 44.1

Insurance Group: 26

C02 emissions: 148 g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

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