Fiat 124 Spider review – Express.co.uk took the convertible out for a spin
VERDICT: Swish convertible is simple, fun and good-looking
PROS: Retro looks, fun to drive, premium interior finish
CONS: Can feel a little underpowered, not at all practical,
TOP TIP: The 124 Spider and MX5 are so similar on paper the you should just pick the one you think looks the best and feels the best to drive.
RIVALS: Mazda MX5
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
Many say that the 124 Spider is just a Mazda MX5 in an Italian suit and that’s probably fair but don’t discount the little Italian car as it has many charms in its own right.
Most notably is the styling. From the front this car is hard not to love. It’s retro and chic and personally I believe is better looking than the MX5 – which appears a little too ordinary for my liking.
Mazda MX5 has more of a universal appeal in terms of looks but the retro quirky design of the Fiat offers a degree of intrigue and the Metallic Argento Grey paint job, the car I was driving, is particularly refined (despite the £500 premium).
So I guess that it just comes down to taste.
It’s nippy and quick when it gets going but doesn’t have the same instant throttle response that some its rivals have.
Powering the car was a 1.6-litre MultiAir Turbo petrol powertrain which produced 140bhp and 240Nm of torque.
Being so light (1,040 kg) and low to the ground, you do feel the power so it’s a lot of fun when you kick the throttle and the manual transmission allow you to exploit the cars 5,000rpm.
Zero-62mph is dealt with in 7.5 seconds before the car runs out of steam at 134 mph.
One thing that is lacking is the sound that the engine produces. It let me down a little.
It sounds a bit juvenile.
When you put your foot down in cabriolet you want it to roar and scream. Convertibles are not made for subtlety and being conservative.
The ride is soft and it rolls but the steering is responsive and felt comfortable and at home driving around country roads with the top down.
For a sporty convertible the combined mpg isn’t all too bad either with the engine being rated at 44.1mpg.
One of the best features is the roof. Fiat has not tried to overcomplicate the system and have saved precious weight by making it manual.
You really can adjust the roof with one hand in a matter of seconds anywhere with complete ease. It’s wonderfully simple and sensible.
The car makes a lot more sense with the roof down and really comes into its own. Due to the narrow view out of the back, driving with the hood up is less than ideal which makes the roof a blessing when it comes down.
It has a low seating position and location of the gearstick took a few moments to get used to but was overall comfortable and functional.
There isn’t bags of room inside, which is to be expected of a car this size, but I had the seat as far back as it could go and I’m just north of six foot, making it fairly unsuitable for the giants among us.
The premium interior of the Fiat 124 Spider
In general, the inside the cabin feels premium with the leather seats, steering wheel and gear knob married to the Piano Black loss dashboard accents and finish to the dashboard and instruments.
It’s a nice place to be but a few more places to put your belongings would be phenomenal and the omission of a cup holder is also fairly baffling.
I didn’t get along with the satellite navigation system which seemed clunky and unresponsive and instead resorted to using the audio from Google Maps through the car’s infotainment system.
Similarly the air conditioning system was fairly problematic as it seemed to either blow out an icy arctic breeze or a light breath of cool.
This doesn’t matter on a hot day when you can just pop the lid of the car and cruise around in the sunshine but it’s not great when the weather isn’t so kind.
Apple Car Play and Android Auto came as a feature on the 124 which really helped iron out some of the issues with the infotainment system.
A number of buttons on the steering wheel control the audio and the car charges as you drive thank to the USB port mounted in the centre console.
On this model of the car the tech specs included a seven-inch touchscreen DAB radio with multimedia control knob, Bluetooth, WiFi connectivity, 2 USB ports and AUX-in.
In addition to this, a Bose audio system with 9 speakers, 4 of which are integrated in the headrests which allowed superior studio even with the roof down.
The boot size is minimal but to be expected of a car of this size and to be honest if you’re buying this car, you really don’t have practicality in mind.
The 124 Spider is uncomplicated and fun to drive
During my drive in the beating 27 degree sunshine, there was no need for me to use the heated seats but they are a nice touch for when you take the car out on a winters weekend.
Fiat’s addition of a rear parking camera and sensors was particularly useful given the sometimes challenging visibility inside the car.
The model was also equipped with a number of safety features including LED headlights and Daytime Running Lights, Cruise control with speed limiter, rain and dusk sensors, Active Pedestrian Protection System, ECS (electronic stability control ) and airbags in the front and sides.
What I can say.
This car is extremely fun to drive and I defy anyone to have a good time while behind its wheel.
It’s simple and uncomplicated.
However, it’s not perfect but it is the kind of car you look for excuses to drive.
This car makes you want to invent reasons to get behind the wheel and I think that is enough reason to want one.
If you want a car that is fun to drive, looks great and practicality isn’t at the top of your list then the 124 Spider makes a worthy choice.
REVIEW SCORE – 8/10