By Mike Torpey on 2017-06-11 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Fiat 124 Spider
IT'S more than 50 years since its namesake shook up the sports car scene of the Swinging Sixties but the Fiat 124 Spider is making up for lost time.
Sexy-looking with a splash of Italian style, the 124 has been designed at Centro Stile in Turin and takes its inspiration from the 1966 original.
Mazda has had the affordable roadster scene to itself in recent times and even though the Spider is based on the Japanese brand's MX-5, the Fiat edges a close vote.
One reason is down to turbo power, the 124 featuring a 1.4-litre Fiat MultiAir engine that's been boosted up to 140bhp.
The upshot is some lively performance with acceleration of 0-62 in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 134mph, marginally quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda.
That said, the claimed average fuel economy figure of 44.1 miles per gallon was, not surprisingly, wide of the mark as my own return over 240 miles of mixed driving was 35.6mpg.
But you can certainly live with a fuel figure like that in a sports car; what's more important is the emotional appeal - and that wind in the hair experience.
And with the latter in mind, the 124 Spider comes with a multi-layer canvas hood that may be manual but can still be operated in seconds and without the driver having to leave their seat.
Nor does it restrict the 140-litre boot space, which is narrow but deep and well capable of stowing shopping or a couple of overnight bags.
Interior space isn't that generous in what is a comfortable and well designed if slightly claustrophobic cabin with the hood in place.
There are no door bins for instance, though you do get a central flip-up container, an upright lockable box in the bulkhead and a pair of cupholders.
In the tested Lusso spec, middle of the three trim grades, there are attractive tan-coloured leather seats with matching colour door inserts which extend to the lower half of the dashboard.
The Spider is a treat to drive, especially through long winding bends and country lanes, responding positively to the short-throw, six speed gearbox and rear-wheel-drive set up.
Prices start at £19,545 for the Classica version, a car that includes the likes of air-con, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control, alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and keyless start.
Lusso models are priced at £22,295 and the top Lusso Plus trim £1,000 more at £23,295.
Fiat 124 Spider Lusso
Mechanical: 140bhp, 1,368cc 4-yl 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: 148g/km
Bik rating: 28%
Warranty: 3yrs/99,999 miles
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