Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018) Review

Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
If you can live with its limited practicality, the 124 Spider offers the charm of a classic roadster without the puddle of oil on your driveway.

+Japanese build quality and reliability should come as standard, retro styling sets it apart from rivals, high standard of interior fit and finish

-Turbocharged engine suffers from lag at lower revs, tiny boot, brakes are not sharp, softer and doesn't feel as together as an MX-5.

Insurance Groups are between 25–26
On average it achieves 90% of the official MPG figure

The Fiat 124 Spider is based on the Mazda MX-5, but with retro styling inspired by the original 124 Sport Spider of 1966. Sold in the UK between 2016 and 2019, it’s a leftfield alternative to the more familiar Mazda. There’s also a sporty Abarth version, with more power and noise. It’s also quite affordable, with used-only prices from around £11,000. And it should retain its value over the longer term – thanks in part to the small number sold.

As cars become ever larger, heavier and more laden with technology, the Fiat 124 Spider feels like pressing ‘reset’. A front-engined, rear-wheel-drive roadster, it’s the old-school sports car formula – yet feels more relevant than ever. Forget hot hatchbacks with 300hp; when it comes to real-world driving, simple pleasures are best.

Before you even turn a wheel, though, you’ll be seduced by how the Fiat looks. While the MX-5 is sleek, angular and unmistakably Japanese, the 124 Spider channels traditional Italian style.

Its 2016 debut came exactly 50 years after the 1966 original and the family resemblance is clear to see. Fiat even produced a sought-after Anniversary version to mark the occasion. Understated and pretty, this car doesn’t try too hard to be ‘retro’.

The Abarth version, of course, is rather less subtle, with a distinctive matt black bonnet – originally a feature of Abath rally cars, to reduce glare for the drivers. You also get red door mirrors, chunkier alloys and Abarth scorpione badges. If you want to be noticed, it’s the default choice.

Both cars use a different engine to the MX-5: a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo petrol. The Fiat musters 140hp, while Abarth turns the wick up to 170PS – and bolts on a rorty exhaust. Either way, modest weight and a malleable chassis mean there’s ample power for B-road fun. The standard car sprints from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, the Abarth in 6.8 seconds. 

That said, the standard 124 Spider is a slightly softer proposition than the Mazda, with more body-roll in corners and a more pliant ride. You could even opt for an automatic transmission if you prefer to take it easy and soak up the sunshine. We’d have the wonderfully snickety manual, though (and no, we’re not certain ‘snickety’ is a real word).

Inside, the Fiat is cosseting and comfortable, with a simple, driver-focused dashboard (note the large rev-counter directly in front of the driver) and straightforward media system. It’s hardly practical, although the boot is slightly bigger than the Mazda. You could certainly manage a long weekend away if you pack light. 

Flipping back the hood is a one-handed job that takes seconds. The extra weight and complexity of an electric roof would, frankly, be unnecessary here. The GT version of the Abarth came with a detachable hard-top in addition to the fabric roof (which still stores beneath the rear deck). The idea is to use the soft-top in summer and hard-top in winter, but remember you’ll need somewhere to store the latter when not in use.

As for reliability, the 124 Spider’s Japanese roots should stand it in good stead. You’ll also discover that average mileage tends to be low, as many are bought as second or ‘weekend’ cars, while running costs are very affordable for a sports car.

Both the Fiat and Abarth are relatively rare, but you can still afford to be choosy when buying one. Read on to discover what you need to know.

Ask Honest John

What are the best cars for tall drivers?
"I'm 6'4" tall. Which cars could I drive comfortably? I currently drive a MINI Cooper."
I asked Mark to answer this because he's 6'3" (he's the tall Geordie bloke that does our video reviews). Mark said, "The only modern car I struggle with is the Madza MX-5/Fiat 124 - there's not much else that you won't physically fit into. At our height you're a bit more susceptible to a poor driving position though, so for that reason I'd also avoid most Citroen - and the Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, if by chance you're after a convertible supercar. That aside, in my experience Volkswagen Group does the best driving positions - Volkswagen, SEAT, Skoda, Audi - so you should find something there that suits. To be honest though, you'll find something to suit you at any budget. Just make sure there's plenty of seat and wheel adjustment, and there's a footrest next to the clutch."
Answered by Georgia Petrie

What does a Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018) cost?