The Fiat 124 Spider is a Fiat icon, a sports car introduced in the 60’s that showed the world Italian flair could be enjoyed on 4 wheels with the hood down without being a Ferrari, a car for us normal mere mortals. More than 600,000 spiders where built, 5,000 of which are still on the roads today in Europe. Fast forward a few decades and not since the Barchetta in the 90’s has Fiat dipped it’s toe in the roadster market, probably due to a certain Japanese car manufacturer pretty much creating the perfect everyday roadster and anything trying to compete with it just hasn’t been good enough.
So now Fiat has done what any sensible person has done, they’ve knocked on the door of Mazda and ‘borrowed’ a few bits, like a kid wanting to make his own go kart, any parts you didn’t have, you’d go and ask your friend if his dad had them in the shed. Fiat has taken the Mazda’s architecture, added some Italian style, with a nod to its 60’s forbearer and dropped in its own engines, seems like a good idea.
Prince’s ‘U Got The Look’ song springs to mind when first seeing the Fiat in the flesh, the pop record could be this roadster’s theme tune, no doubt the legendary Prince would admire it’s styling, very Italian with curves in the right places. Inside the vibe is good also; no hard plastics to be found here, Fiat has gone for soft-touch, with high quality materials, giving it a premium feel. It feels a nice place to be, comfortable and snug without feeling claustrophobic.
But a car like this has to be more than just the looks; if Fiat is going to succeed it needs some substance, its 1.4 litre turbo engine gives a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds (quicker than the Mazda), so it’s no slouch. On the road the 124 Spider feels relaxed, a good size for zipping in and out of traffic, open it up on the motorway a little as we head up the M6 towards the Lake District and the power delivery is good, you might expect some intrusive noise being a roadster but by using an acoustic windshield, a thicker rear window and sound deadening materials in certain areas, Fiat has created an almost silent cabin in terms of noise.
Joy to drive
Coming off the M6 near Crooklands onto the A590, it’s time to take the hood down and enjoy the benefits of a roadster, a manual soft top; it’s down within seconds and we’re off again. It’s not to say this now feels like a different car but it’s all just a bit more alive, almost like the fun factor just turned up a bit. The 124 Spider likes the roads, a joy to drive, it’s not crashing and bellowing about aimlessly, neither is it trying to race to your destination, somehow it knows you want to enjoy the wind in the hair feel, almost like you can sit back and enjoy the view but know if you need the power as you come out of a twisty bend it’s there.
Aside from being a fun drive, the Fiat 124 Spider has the usual necessities, air con, leather, keyless engine start, USB, AUX & Bluetooth. Other trim levels offer rear parking camera, keyless entry, LED headlamps and no doubt other luxuries that when the original 124 Spider was launched in the 60’s where only in the imagination of sci-fi writers.
So as we reach our destination in Kendal, stopping for a quick drink before we turn round and do the same route in reverse, I can feel myself smiling, Fiat has achieved what it set out to do, it’s created a spirited roadster, yes they’ve borrowed some parts from Mazda but why not, what makes this car different is purely Italian, they’ve given it style, a bit of substance, keeping it simple not making it overcomplicated, the 124 Spider has a very likeable appeal and as I wait for my coffee to cool, I ask my wife what she thinks, taking a sip from her Kendal Mint Vodka she looks at me and says ‘I want one’ Enough said, well done Fiat!