First drive review: Fiat 124 Spider
The Fiat 124 Spider is easy on the eye, effortless to drive and perfect for cruising in comfort – bringing classic looks and the laid-back sensibilities of the Mediterranean to UK shores.
The Fiat 124 Spider is classy looking, has the stylish retro-elegance you’d hope for in something with the DNA of 1966 coursing through its engineering, and is perfect for effortless cruising in.
As such, winding through Snowdonia - the roof down and a slight chill in the air as the autumnal sun shines - is precisely the kind of driving experience the convertible was designed for.
Abarth 124 Spider
1.4 T Multiair 2dr
- 8k Miles p/a
Per Month, EXC VAT
Business Users Only
You may notice there are two very distinct sides to the Fiat brand these days in regard to the type of cars they produce. On the one hand there is the Functional side (the newly released Fiat Tipo perfectly exemplifying this) and on the other side there is Aspirational which is where the 124 Spider comes in. As the flagship model of this Aspirational side, while also attempting to recreate the spirit of the original Spider from 1966, the burden of responsibility is widely placed on the bonnet of the 124.
With all of this in mind, a solid base obviously needed to be provided to ensure it got off to the perfect start. Now, it’s hard to write a first drive review of the Fiat 124 Spider without mentioning the words ‘Mazda MX-5’ – after all, this has traditionally been the epitome of an attainable roadster convertible – but this self-censoring becomes doubly-hard when the very platform the Spider is built on is shared with the MX-5.
Be that is it may, delve into the specs and stats and you’ll see that there are plenty of points where the Spider excels and beats the traditional champion of roadsters – namely when it comes to power (140 hp compared to the MX5’s 131), torque (240 maximum torque Nm compared to 150), top speed (134mph compared to 127) and acceleration (0-62 in 7.5secs compared to 8.3).
On top of this, the 124 Spider offers a few things your average driver will find much more alluring than statistics – the perfect balance of handling and comfort as well as a sporty-feeling and fun drive.
And therein lies the major difference that sets these two models apart. The comfort-oriented approach Fiat have taken with their convertible means that there are engine mounts to avoid any vibration, and the suspension, steering and throttle are all soft, so while it is ideal for casually cruising across some great driving roads it doesn’t have that nimble and dangerous aspect you may want from a sports car.
The same goes for the engine too – while the 1.4 turbo is strong on flexibility, its response to having the throttle pinned isn’t as rapid as you would hope. Thanks to the higher torque output listed above it peaks when you’re low in the rev range, meaning you can gladly sit back and leave the gear-stick alone to get the punchy performance you may desire. Simply put, it’s quick enough to make you smile and nod in approval but not scream like you’re on a fairground ride.
And why would you want to scream, when the name of the game is class and elegance? Those two words perfectly sum up the cabin of the Lusso Plus model we tested. The drive position is nice and low, featuring heated seats that give an additional level of comfort and refinement when driving at speed with the top down. The dashboard is clean and simple in its layout, and there’s a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav that does its job with a minimum of fuss and a rear-view camera for added navigational ease. And speaking of ease, you’ll have no trouble putting up and taking down the roof – not only is the mechanism simple but it does a great job of cancelling out any road-noise too.
All of this adds up to a car that is easy on the eye, effortless to drive and perfect for cruising in comfort – bringing classic looks and the laid-back sensibilities of the Mediterranean to UK shores.
Model Tested: Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus 1.4 Turbo
|Top speed:||134 mph|
|0 – 62mph:||7.5 seconds|
|Official fuel economy:||44.1 mpg|
|C02 emissions:||148 g/km|
|Car tax band:||F / £145|
|Luggage Space:||140 litres|
Average lease rate for tested model:
*Personal lease rate: £427
*Business lease rate: £356
*Average monthly lease rates calculated using ContractHireAndLeasing.com data and based on typical 6 + 35 10k deals. Correct at time of writing.