|The new 124 Spider looks to Fiat’s past for inspiration, and pulls it off beautifully. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I won’t go into all the challenges she had with her then new albeit horribly unreliable 124 Spider, because today’s Fiat is a completely different company and its cars wholly better made. In fact, the new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider shown here is a thoroughly reliable Mazda MX-5 in disguise, or at least the mostly Euro-sourced components that gave such Fiat owners headaches decades are now Japanese made.
|Front to back, the 124 Spider is as sexy as modern-day roadsters get. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
In the case of this new 124 Spider I personally celebrate the fact that its heart is Italian.
|Its manual cloth top is easy to lower and close, and does a good job isolating the cabin from outside noise. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It’s ironic the model that singlehandedly made the roadster body style popular again in the early ’90s by pulling styling cues from classic convertibles like the Lotus Elan is now the most modern and edgy drop-top in the entry-level convertible sector, but this is a good thing for Fiat being that this new 124 Spider makes
|These pear-shaped LED headlamps are a new take on classic circular bulbs. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
With the main body of work done previously Fiat didn’t need to turn to Pininfarina this time around, so therefore its in-house Turin studio took care of modernization. From what I’ve been told the process of re-skinning a current design
|These 17-inch alloys are one sign of mid-range Lusso trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The grille and double-domed hood are the most obvious tie-ins with the early Spider, but for me the unorthodox shape of its front and rear fenders are even more intrinsic to the original design. They flare upward and outward similar to the nose of another Pininfarina creation, Ferrari’s 1963-1965 330 GT 2+2 (and a few others of the era), which is most noticeable when looking straight on, a delicate bit
|A glass rear window with defrost quickly makes anyone old enough to remember early roadsters appreciate today’s conveniences. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I remember my teacher’s Spider having a particularly nice interior for the time too, her car finished in tan leather, which matched the same tan top, the exterior a classy cream coloured solid paint with de rigueur twinned pin striping down each shoulder line. It was only fitting that Fiat dressed my 2017 tester similarly, its paintwork
|Quick-reacting LED taillights enhance safety and style. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|This two-tone Nero black and Saddle leather interior looks rich. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Lusso trim ups the refinement ante with the aforementioned leather upholstery and upgraded instrument panel, not to mention a contrast-stitched black leather gauge hood “brow” and a soft-touch lower instrument panel. Piano black lacquered trim highlights key areas too, while satin-silver roll bars combine with the
|The classic Fiat badge on the steering wheel hub might be all that’s familiar to fans of the original 124 Spider. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
These upgrades were joined by most of the Classica’s standard kit, including power-folding side mirrors that provided good rear visibility, a soft touch dash top and
|The driver-focused cockpit is wonderfully comfortable and filled with conveniences. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
That top was black, not tan like my teacher’s Spider, but it certainly looked well proportioned atop the new model’s long, lean bodywork. It’s even more attractive lowered, of course, which is how I left it as often as I could, despite the cool but mostly dry weather enjoyed throughout my test week. This is where I need to expose my inner cognitive dissonance when it comes to convertibles. If a carmaker creates both hardtop coupe and convertible body styles of a given model I tend to prefer the former more often than not,
|A fully featured gauge cluster might look retro but it’s replete with state-of-the-art electronics. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Nestled into its inherently comfortable leather buckets I’m already grateful for the ergonomic advancements made over the 35
|A number of key features are pulled directly out of the MX-5. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The little 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo-four barks to life with the eagerness of playful pup yet quickly made me realize it’s got a strong bite to go along with its rorty exhaust note. It’s rated at 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, numbers that might make fans of the 89-horsepower original have second thoughts about their Sunday ride (the final 1984-1985 Pininfarina Spiders had 133) and will certainly cause MX-5 drivers to sit up and take notice thanks to five extra horsepower and 36 lb-ft more torque than the Mazda, while the equally exclusive six-speed manual
|Premium fixed tablet-style infotainment touchscreen is pure Mazda kit, but it looks great and works very well. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
That engine is actually pulled from the fabulously fun 500 Abarth, one of my all-time favourite hot hatches, but while there’s fire in the belly it’s notably more muted at its behind. This makes sense as the 500 Abarth sells to performance fanatics that don’t mind its rasping mechanical machinations, noisome backpressure popping cacophony and constant droning highway note (I’m solidly in this camp), some of this hubbub no doubt infused into 124 Spider Abarth trim that
|The 124 Spider’s notchy six-speed shifter is optimal for performance driving. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As it is the Lusso is no slouch in the corners, its taut Touring suspension delivering adhesive grip no matter the tightness of curves or inane speeds taken at entry. It’s a car that rewards courage with brilliantly flickable precision, the steering superbly responsive to quick input while always transmitting near direct feel of the road below, the suspension doing likewise albeit not to the point of harshness, with the overall experience way above par. In fact, I like driving the 124 Spider even more than the ghosted Mazda beneath the skin, its refined demeanor better suited to my more classic (read aging) frame.
|This knurled metal infotainment controller is right out of the MX-5 playbook. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
With everything added the 124 Spider Lusso came to $41,690 before freight and dealer fees, which is a small price to pay for a near-luxury two-seat roadster with more
|Gorgeous ribbed leather seats look fabulous in Saddle brown. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Not only is the price reasonable, a Fiat 124 Spider will help keep your fuel budget down thanks to a five-cycle fuel economy rating of 9.0 L/100km in the city and 6.7 on the highway, which incidentally is almost identical to the MX-5’s 8.9 L/100km city results and much better than its 7.1 highway rating. Not bad considering the 124 Spider’s power boost. The 124 Spider with the automatic gets 9.3 L/100km city and 6.5 on the highway, which once again isn’t
|Plenty of luggage space for a weekend getaway in here. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To say I like it would be an understatement, the new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider one of the best all-round sports cars I’ve driven in years. Don’t even try to compare it to the MX-5 other than its compact size, front-engine, rear-drive and two-seat layout, four-cylinder power, and obvious roadster body style. They’re two distinctively different cars with very unique souls. While it might ride on mostly Japanese underpinnings, the 124 Spider has a high beat Italian heart that’s audacia appassionato! It’s impossible not to fall in love with this fabulous little sports car.
Ti amo la mia piccola auto sportiva Italiana!
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)