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Fiat 124 Spider puts the fun back into driving

I’ve never owned a convertible, to me the weather in the UK just does not justify the usual premium you have to pay to get that wind in your hair motoring experience for the couple of week’s a year you can enjoy it. But I have changed my mind – massively changed my mind!

Last week the kind folks at FCA UK delivered Enzari a new test car to the fleet, a very pretty Fiat 124 Spider. Now I could go on about the 1960’s, throwback to motoring’s heyday and all that but I won’t. You see heritage is good, classic cars are fine, but today the world has changed and a roadster has to do more than just make you think you are about to pick up Audrey Hepburn on a summers day.

On first impressions, it is a good looking car, our roadster came in the optional Italia Blue which really suits the car well. The styling is subtle with just a slight nod to it’s predecessors from the 60’s, round headlamps at the front with sculpted front wings, nice lines down the side that as you wander round the car, revealing a rather pert rear. However look’s alone won’t sell me on a car, it has to have the substance to back it up.

Under the bonnet:

So, is the spider a thing of substance? Lifting the bonnet of the front engined rear wheel drive Fiat, you are met with a 140hp 1.4 Multiair Turbo engine, in fact the engine doesn’t really look big enough to give you a fun time in a car but the little roadster can hit the 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, before running out of breath around 134mph. More than adequate figures for something you can drive with the hood down. It has the same engine which is found in various other Fiat’s as well as the Abarth’s, albeit it they have been tweaked to give a little more power. The engine is gentle at idle, with just a little bit of the ‘gruff’ stuff when you let the rev’s climb, could be this little Fiat has enough of the right stuff then.

Taking the driving seat:

Once inside the Fiat 124, unlike roadsters of old, you don’t feel like you are sat on the tarmac, more hovering just above. The seats are supportive, wrap around affair, our particular test car had tan leather which enhances that roadster feel whilst ensuring the cabin gets a maximum airy and roomy feel about it. Of which the cabin is roomy, there is none of that hemmed in effect bordering on claustrophobic you sometimes associate with roadster’s whilst the hood is up. Everything is well laid out, like most modern cars now, all the controls are easy at hand, ergonomically laid out you could say.

The rev counter sits in the middle of the dials, with the speedo to the right, engine temp and fuel gauge on the left, giving the layout a sporty feel. The touch screen infotainment system takes centre role in the dashboard, again as is common in modern cars, giving you sat nav, radio, telephone and various other options if you care to take the time to read the owners manual. But I wasn’t about to bother with that, to me this Fiat 124 Spider is about the ride…

As the sun made an appearance on the bank holiday weekend, it would be rude not to drop the top on the Fiat and enjoy it, with a manual hood, not a push button system, it is so simple and quick it make’s me wonder why you need a 10 second plus automatic to do the job, with one click you then push the hood behind and down, another click later it is locked into place, the whole process takes around 2 seconds, I kid you not, simple is an understatement.

Pressing the start/stop button brings the 1.4 turbo engine to life, with just enough noise to let you know it’s awake. Engaging first gear, the manual gearbox has a very precise mechanical but smooth feel to it, so with just over 1500rpm it pulls away quickly. The first thing you notice is the vision down that bonnet, thanks to the slightly sculpted front wings it is easy to gauge the width of the car, giving you point and aim accuracy as you go into the corners, allowing you to put the car exactly where you want it. The ride surprises me, knowing there is the harder, more focused Abarth version of the 124, I was expecting the Fiat to be a bit of a soft roadster, the reality is it’s more of a Sport set up, it isn’t crashy or firm as it ride’s but assured, driving over the inevitable pot holes we seem to suffer from in the UK this time of year, it took them with ease, not transferring any of the discomfort to the passengers onboard, it is the same when coming across speed bumps and the like, it isn’t so low the bodywork catches them and it rides them comfortably.

As you drive the Fiat you become aware of two things, first the ease at which it drive’s, smooth and comfortable, not twitchy around the bends, it doesn’t bounce over the road surfaces, it just remains planted. Of course a car like this does have the option of switching the traction control off, should you wish to get the tail out on this rear wheel drive roadster. The second thing is the look’s, I am astonished how many people took a second glance as we drove along and smiled, one guy in his car at a set of lights whilst stationary even asked what it was and when I told him, his response was ‘Wow I didn’t know Fiat built anything that cool!’

Do I want one?

During the week which we had the Fiat 124, I enjoyed it more and more, the trip to the supermarket was no longer a chore but another excuse for a drive. Then there is the look’s, coming out of the house the little roadster seemed to look at me as if saying ‘ let’s have some fun’ , neighbours commented on what a good looking car it was, teenagers smiled at it and even gave the thumbs up! In essence it is a fun car, a car you can use everyday, the boot was big enough for our weekly shop, it is easy to get in and out of, easier still to drive. Even when the weather changed and the roof had to be up, you didn’t feel like any of the driving experience was particularly taken away.

So would I buy one? Yes is the simple answer, in fact I recommend everyone does, my reason is simple, I have never seen a car make so many people smile, it gives out the happy fun factor. Fiat has given us a car that is fun to drive and one people like, long live the 124 Spider…

Specifications:

Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 140hp
ENGINE LINE AND STYLE
Configuration 4 cylinders Premium Silver windscreen frame
Cubic Capacity (CC) 1368 Electrically adjustable, body coloured door mirrors
Valves 16 17″ alloy wheels
Bore x Stroke(mm) 72.0 x 84.0 Chrome double exhaust pipe
Compression ratio 9.8:1 Upholstered lower dashboard
Fuel Type Petrol Upholstered instrument cluster hood
Max. Power – kW / Max. Power – hp / @rpm 103 / 140 @ 5000 Piano Black dashboard accent
Max. Torque – Nm  / @rpm 240/2250 Leather steering wheel and gear knob
TRANSMISSION INFOTAINMENT
Drive Rear  7″ touchscreen DAB radio with multimedia control knob, Bluetooth ®, WiFi connectivity, 2 USB ports and AUX-in
Gearbox 6-speed manual
STEERING & SUSPENSION Navigation system with 3D maps
Front Suspension Double wishbone with stabilizer bar Bose® audio system wih 9 speakers, 4 of which are integrated in the headrests
Rear Suspension Multilink with stabilizer bar
Power Steering Type Rack and pinion – DP – EPAS COMFORT & FUNCTIONALITY
Turning Circle (kerb to kerb in metres) 9.4 Automatic climate control
BRAKES Leather heated seats
Front Brakes Ventilated Disc – 280 mm Rear parking sensors
Rear Brakes Disc- 280 mm Parview rear camera
DIMENSIONS (mm) Keyless Go (engine start button) & Keyless entry
Height 1233 Driver’s seat adjustable in 5 directions
Length 4054 Alarm with immobiliser
Width 1740 SAFETY
Wheelbase 2310 LED headlights and Daytime Running Lights
Track front / rear 1496/1503 Cruise control with speed limiter
CAPACITIES & WEIGHTS Premium Silver roll bar covers
Kerb Weight (kg) 1050 Rain and dusk sensors
Fuel tank capacity (ltr) 45 Active Pedestrian Protection System
Max. cargo volume (ltr) 140 ESC (Electronic Stability Control) & TPMS
PERFORMANCE Front & side airbags
0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) (secs) 7.5 OPTIONS ADDED
Max. Speed (mph) 134 Metallic Paint (Italia Blue) £500
FUEL ECONOMY & EMMISSIONS Total Price including Options £25,550.00
Combined mpg / Combined L/100km 44.1/6.4
Extra Urban mpg / Extra Urban L/100km 55.4/5.1
Urban mpg / Urban L/100km 33.2/8.5
EU Emissions Standard Euro 6c
CO2 (g/km) 148
Total OTR Price £25,050.00

 

 

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