Hannah Gordon reviews the Fiat 124 Spider, does it drive as good as it looks?
What is it? A two seater sports car with the chassis and suspension of a Mazda MX5 and the audacious styling and engine from Fiat.
Who is it aimed at? Definitely not a family car, but the Fiat 124 is a nice little sporty number with just two seats a tiny boot and the ability to have its top down when the English weather allows! If you’re a fan of the Mazda MX5 but want some Italian flair and a turbocharged engine the 124 is for you.
The styling? In my opinion better looking than its Mazda counterpart the Fiat 124 has big bulbous headlights and gaping front grills which give it a bit of a surprised look at the front, sleek it is not but good looking it certainly is. The rear has also been well proportioned with an exhaust tail pipe either side. The roof is easy to put up and down, although it isn’t electric the simplicity of it means its a bonus to not be electric.
Under the bonnet? Available with just the one engine choice which is the superb 1.4 litre petrol turbocharged unit, also found in the Fiat 500 this engine is superb and also has a little raspy note to it on acceleration. Weighing just over a tonne and producing 140 bhp the 124 is no slouch and can get up to 62mph in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 134mph.
What about inside? Its a low car so getting in and out can be a fairly un-ladylike experience, but once wedged in, the seats do offer some comfort. The interior is tastefully wrapped in leather and offers a good driving position, the dash is well designed but the infotainment selector is in a rather uncomfortable place situated behind the gear stick. In the Lusso version it came with a piano black interior which looked smart, the infotainment system was ok but certainly not the easiest to use on the market.
On the road? The driving experience is what people will buy the Fiat 124 for and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, as it shares a lot with the Mazda MX5 the chassis and suspension are well tested and liked. The one difference being the turbo charged engine which is extremely willing and quick off the mark, the rear wheel drive system pushes you through the corners and turning the traction control off gives you a more raw experience which I love. The gearbox is a six speed and has a short sharp change to which enables you progress and the exhaust note ‘eggs’ you on every time you accelerate.
And safety? As standard you get front and side airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Isofix points for the passenger seat. The Fiat 124 doesn’t have the option of lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring or adaptive cruise control like other cars may have, the 124 is a simple car that features the bare minimum on safety equipment. It also hasn’t been tested by Euro NCap, but without these safety features the highest it could score would be 4 stars.
What are my options? Not many to choose from but if you require a metallic paint job then thats a £550 option,
Will it break the bank? If you have purchased a Fiat 124 to rarely visit a petrol station then you’ve bought the wrong car, official figures from Fiat state 44.1 mpg, but in reality you will get nothing like this. I managed around 35mpg and its hard not to accelerate a little hard at times! CO2 figures show 148 of CO2 per km which means £200 first year tax bill and £140 per year after.
So the verdict? It is nice to have choice when buying a car and for so long the Mazda MX5 has enjoyed the market to itself, The Fiat 124 offers the consumer something different and in my opinion looks better than the Mazda. When it comes to choosing between the two it will come down to which of the styling you prefer and which engine you like.
The Fiat 124 has a superb turbocharged engine and has that Italian flair feel to it but the Mazda MX5 is a proven winner, with so little between them the choice could be a difficult one.
Why you’ll buy one? Styling; Engine;
Why you won’t? Economy; lack of options, safety
Fiat 124 Spider
Max speed: 134 mph
0-62 mph: 7.5 seconds
Emissions: 148 g/km
Model price range: from £21,050
No of Doors: 2
Euro NCAP : NA
Fuel type: Petrol
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): 44.1 mpg
Boot Capacity Seats up: 140 litres
Length: 4054 mm
Width: 1740 mm
Height: 1233 mm
Wheelbase: 2310 mm
24th July, 2017