Spider Lusso Plus
When petrolheads hear
that they immediately think of
the ultimate F-word
There is, however, another Italian-
badged drop-top sporting the
WOULD LOVE a Ferrari but getting behind the wheel of Fiat's 124 Spider is not
just dreamable, it's doable: prices start at £21K for this pretty Italian two-seater
roadster whose name recalls the original Pininfarina-designed and Turin-built
124 Spider that was a big hit in America back when Scott Mckenzie was singing
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).
Fast forward fifty-some years and this eye-catching Italian roadster is no longer
built in Turin today's 124 Spiders may have been conceived in Italy but
are born in a Mazda car factory in the Land of the Rising Sun because beneath
the 124's bespoke and eye-catching skin there's MX-5 DNA.
Not that you'd guess it from just looking because there's not a single shared
panel between them; designed in the FIAT Style Centre, the 124's distinctive
four-metre long body is all Fiat's own work.
and with the top down
theres no mistaking
the 124 Spiders classic
roadster profile: fronted
by a long, broad and
stretching back from a
with the cockpit
flowing into swallow-tail
immediately ahead of
the rear axle...
A twenty-something whose parents remember the Swinging Sixties, or more likely
whose grandparents loved through them, will see this new millennium's 124 Spider
from a totally different viewpoint to them it's just a pretty convertible
that looks like a sure thing whereas their parents and grandparents might spot
the new version's tribute to the original 124's swallow-tail rear wings. No
matter, it looks pretty good even if you don't 'get' the provenance.
Resplendent in white and with the top down there's no mistaking the Spider's
classic roadster profile: a long, broad and muscular bonnet stretching back
from a hexagonal grille, with the cockpit flowing into the rear wings immediately
ahead of the rear axle.
Defining each rear corner below the boot lid's intergal rear spoiler are distinctive
horizontal LED tail lights with coloured centre sections matched to the paintwork.
Lower down, a chrome tipped tailpipe protrudes either side of the neat central
cluster of reversing and fog lights. Linking it plainly to the present are sturdy
roll-hoops behind each headrest, all finished in silver, as too is the windscreen
Those with a love of all things Italian will be cheered to know that below the
long, wide bonnet with its subtle twin power domes, the heartbeats come not
from a Japanese motor but one of Fiat's own turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir
petrol engines that's good for 138bhp.
There's a deep-rooted pleasure in using your hands to do things for yourself,
particularly so when it comes to driving soon to be a fond memory as
self-driving cars edge ever closer. And, as admirable as sophisticated double-clutch
sport automatic gearboxes are, there's no beating the satisfaction of a well-judged
down-change, or two, as you line up for a challenging series of bends using
pressing and holding a button to retract a soft-top can be rather dreary once
the novelty has worn off whereas in the Spider it's a moment's work to release
the safety before manually flicking back the fabric roof with typically Italian
before the feast, you must sit at the table… Swing open the driver's door, drop
down into the shapely black leather seat and rest your palms on the tactile
leather-wrapped three-spoke wheel; the über-stubby gearlever is very close
like its gate and with the uninterrupted view down the long bonnet it
all comes together: sitting classically low and feeling totally in control,
even before you push the starter button you can feel it in your bones
this roadster is going to be a hoot to drive.
open the drivers
door, drop down into the
shapely black leather
seat and rest your palms
on the tactile leather-
wheel; the über-stubby
gearlever is very close
and with the uninterrupted view down
the long bonnet it all comes together this roadster is going
to be a hoot to drive...
The Spider's cabin fits like a glove; everything is perfectly placed, from the
pedals to the pull-up handbrake to the gearlever and steering wheel to the cupholders
in the charmingly streamlined cockpit. And whether you're just popping out to
pick up a take-away or savouring a 200-mile touring trip, you'll find the seats
are always comfortable and supportive.
A three-dial instrument cluster comprised of a large central rev-counter flanked
by a smaller speedo and another dial incorporating the multifunction trip computer
(sensibly accessed via a button on the wheel), all with brilliant white-on-black
markings, tells you everything you need to know.
The SatNav, interfacing through a seven-inch touchscreen, is first-rate and
one of the friendliest we've come across in a long while. Spoken commands are
spot-on for accuracy and given in good time for you to position the car well
before the event. The 3D mapping is crystal clear, with easily read street names.
The home screen is uncluttered and foolproof and controlled using either your
index finger or the knurled rotary 'joystick' on the central tunnel just behind
the gearlever; or mix and match using both. Better still, using the voice control
to input your destination is a breeze. Hard 'jump' buttons let you dive straight
into the main navigation and entertainment menus. Also integrated into the display
is a rear-view camera with an on-screen grid, although parking is no hassle
courtesy of rear sensors and the fact that the view though the heated glass
rear screen is fine.
your head is a fist of air between you and the inner skin of the well finished
hood; soundproofing, boosted by an acoustic windscreen, is good and with the
roof up it's as quiet as you'd want a sports car to be enough for some
chit-chat without the need to raise your voice, but not that insulated that
you can't hear the MultiAir when you're working it so don't need a rev-counter
to tell you when to snatch a gearchange.
enough, too, should you want to enjoy some non-mechanical sounds by switching
on the nine-speaker (including two speakers in each built-in headrest) BOSE
sound system… if not, there's always DAB radio and music streaming via Bluetooth.
dont buy a drop-
top unless youre
intending to drop the top.
Fiat understand this
and have given the
canvas hood a brilliantly
that makes going topless
about as quick as is
it can be unlatched
and folded back,
from the drivers seat
While at first glance it appears that, apart from a well-placed elbow pad on
the central tunnel with a compact undertray, Fiat may have followed Ryanair's
lead and be making you put your personal bits and bobs in the boot, don't worry
look to the rear bulkhead between the seatbacks and you'll spot a lockable
cubby that holds a surprising amount of 'stuff'. And no extra charge!
The moveable individual cupholders are another thoughtful touch: either or both
can be slotted into the tail-end of the central tunnel, or one can be relocated
to the passenger's side of the central tunnel close to the passenger's knee.
The windows both have one-touch down electric operation and both seats have
fast three-stage heating; you can dial-up fierce heat from the climate control
(it has large rotary knobs for easy operation on the trot) which together with
eyeball vents guarantee you'll be keeping snug even topless on a winter's day.
Belt guides on the seat shoulders are also appreciated and minimise faffing
around when buckling up.
Naturally there's more kit, including 17-inch alloy wheels plus safety assists
such as cruise control with speed limiter, adaptive LED headlamps, LED daytime
running lights, front fog lamps, four airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, electronic
stability control, and automatic lights and wipes.
don't buy a drop-top unless you're intending to drop the top. Sounds reasonable.
Fiat understand this and have given the Spider's hood a brilliant mechanism
that makes going topless about as quick as is humanely possible it can
be unlatched and folded back, single-handed from the driver's seat in just seconds.
In fact, if top-dropping was an Olympic sport then the Spider would win the
gold with a faster time than any other convertible. For the record, the same
goes for putting it back up again.
Top-down the cabin is snug even on the windiest days, the air flowing cleanly
over the screen and over your head. At sane speeds there's no wind roar or buffeting
whatsoever; the small windblocker between the roll-hoops also does a fine job
of keeping out backdraughts and can be left in place permanently as while it
effectively blocks draughts what it doesn't do is block the driver's rearward
the Spider top-down is stirring; make sure you do it at night too, when it feels
even more intense. Obviously getting in and out is no problem with the roof
down the good news is that it's just as easy with the roof up.
with a sonorous voice
sporty rather than
rorty while serving up
the 0-62mph sprint in
a crisp 7.5 seconds;
thats keen enough to
give even quite potent
hot-hatches a shock.
Top speed is almost
double the UKs
legal motorway limit
raring to go? Press the starter button (like entry and locking, the engine start-stop
is also keyless). Already proven in Alfa's Giulietta, the 1,368cc MultiAir is
a turboed petrol engine that, thanks to its 177lb ft of torque being fully on
song nice and low down the rev-band, is at its most tractable in the mid-range.
And this four-pot sings with a sonorous voice sporty rather than rorty
while serving up the 0-62mph sprint in a crisp 7.5 seconds; that's keen
enough to give even quite potent hot-hatches a bit of a shock. Top
speed is almost double the UK's legal motorway limit at 134mph; and it has an
unexpectedly easygoing high-speed gait that makes it a very satisfying touring
machine. Lake Garda here we come!
Thanks to a wonderfully crisp and positive change action and six well-stacked
ratios the 124's 138bhp combined with its healthy lag-free get-up-and-go ensures
plenty of willing in-gear verve; it also delivers meaningful pick up in fifth
and even sixth without necessitating a down change but you'll probably
want to anyway just to feel that satisfyingly accurate 'snick' as the lever
slots precisely through the gate.
the Spider makes comprehensive use of the suspension and underpinnings of the
MX-5, Fiat's engineers have tweaked it enough to make it their own. Like the
Mazda, the Spider lays its power down through the back wheels, so leaning on
the rear Bridgestones when powering out of bends has that exuberance than no
front-wheel driver can ever truly match.
Adding to the driving enjoyment is nicely weighted steering that's as quick
as you'll need plus the compact three-spoker offers good thigh clearance
without that trendy flattened bit at the bottom. Body lean in corners is well
managed, there's ample traction to keep it well planted.
Spider is a totally enjoyable driver's car, one that feels alive in your hands
whether your right foot is caressing or crushing the accelerator; and almost
begs you to push it harder. Encouraging you to do just that, even on ragged
tarmac, is the compliant suspension. Unlike some stiffer-suspended sports cars
that can take being track-friendly a touch too far, less than perfect blacktop
is not the Spider's enemy thanks to its more mellow damping it
feels composed and willing and, despite what's underfoot, will go wherever you
point its nose.
Spider is a totally
enjoyable drivers car,
one that feels alive in
your hands whether your
right foot is caressing or
crushing the accelerator.
And the well-fettled
wont let humpy-bumpy
kybosh your fun...
the way it rides rather than jives over poorer surfaces, the Spider's well-fettled
ride/handling dynamics won't let humpy-bumpy British roads kybosh your fun.
Another essential in any driver's car is a predictable set of brakes and the
Spider comes good here too, with a feelsome pedal and short stopping distances.
is unlikely to appear at the top of any sports car buyer's shortlist but with
the 124 Spider you get it anyway officially the combined cycle figure
is 44.1mpg, with CO2 emissions of 148g/km.
A week spent making the Spider 'sing for its supper' on a mix of A, B and C
(for country) roads saw a very respectable return for every gallon of unleaded
it drank 42.7mpg. Given its turn of speed it was more than we were expecting.
A more laid-back driving style (equally enjoyable and doubly so top-down) is
likely to net real-life owners the mid-forty figure that eluded us.
Being a dedicated two-seater with driving pleasure as its rationale, few owners
will be expecting their Spider to carry much more than a single passenger
if the other front seat is occupied by a person of interest then there's 140
litres in the boot for some staycation squashy luggage or weekender bags. As
Yogi Bhajan said: Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light!
Judged on smiles-per-mile, the 124 Spider is more satisfying and involving than
just about anything else you can pick up for the same money; and nothing else
gets its top off quicker. An authentic Italian roadster driving experience.
Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds | Test Average: 42.7mpg
Power:138bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2: 148g/km