Fiat's new two seater roadster tested on Irish roads
Pros: Italian flair, fun to drive, punchy turbocharged engine
Cons: Narrow seats, higher starting price than rivals
The Mazda MX-5 may be the affordable sports car king, but it has an interesting new rival to face off for 2017, in the shape of Fiat’s all-new 124 Spider. The 124 Spider is a two seater roadster that oozes Italian flair from the outside, packs a punchy turbocharged petrol engine and it is incidentally based on the same underpinnings as the MX-5, which is a great thing. We recently spent a week with the 124 Spider on Irish roads, mostly with its roof down, to see if it drives as well as it looks.
What is it like?
If you like to stand out from the crowd, then the 124 Spider is sure to do the trick. With its long sloping bonnet and curvaceous rear arches, it draws lots of attention out on the road, and particularly so when the roof is down. Comparing the 124 Spider next to the Mazda MX-5, as we inevitably will, it looks larger and also adopts a more vintage style. Our Premium Lusso specification 124 Spider has several desirable extras including larger 17-inch alloy wheels, silver roll bar covers and chrome double exhaust pipes at the rear.
The Spider is suitably sporty inside and its soft top roof drops down quickly by manually unclipping and pushing it down. All of the cabin materials are high quality and it’s a pretty comfortable place to spend time, although the seats do feel slightly narrow when you sit into them. There aren’t many storage areas which is to be expected, but the 140 litre boot is spacious enough to hold two small suitcases and additional luggage. There is a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard which works via a dial beside the handbrake, and it’s great for streaming music and taking hands-free calls on the go.
The 124 Spider packs a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine that churns out 140bhp and 240Nm of torque, so it’s lively to drive with plenty of mid-range oomph. The Spider can cover 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds, and it gathers speed more impressively than the naturally-aspirated Mazda MX-5. The growling sound from the engine is enjoyable, while its short-shifting six-speed manual gearbox offers precise changes. We found the 124 Spider to be reasonably economical too, averaging around 7.7 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres of driving (37 MPG), while annual motor tax is listed at €390.
Fun is the best word to describe how the 124 Spider drives both in and out of town. The steering is precise and it feels incredibly sporty thanks to the low-slung driving position and how the bonnet stretches out in front of the driver. Like the MX-5, the 124 is rear wheel drive, so it powers enthusiastically out of corners and it turns confidently on back roads too. At higher speeds it also cruises quite comfortably, but wind noise becomes more noticeable through the soft top roof.
Prices for the Fiat 124 Spider start from €32,395 for the base specification Classica model, which is slightly more expensive than the Mazda MX-5, which has a base price of around €28,000. The level of equipment in the 124 Spider is generous with all models getting 16-inch alloy wheels, electric mirrors, a 7-inch display, cruise control and a leather steering wheel as standard. We drove the highest specification Lusso Plus version which has additional full LED lights, leather upholstery and a superb-sounding nine-speaker Bose stereo system.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The 124 Spider is an excellent everyday sports car and marks an exciting new era in the class for Fiat. It is lots of fun to drive, and yet is still comfortable enough for longer journeys on Ireland’s often bumpy roads. While the new Mazda MX-5 is ultimately the class favourite and starts at a slightly lower price point, the 124 Spider makes for an excellent alternative choice and is likely to develop into a future classic in years to come.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Fiat 124 Spider
Prices from: €32,395
Price as tested: €36,695
Annual Road Tax: €390
Engine: 1368cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Top Speed: 216km/h
0-100km/h: 7.5 seconds
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual Transmission
Body style: Cabriolet
Boot Space: 140 litres