Review: Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018)
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. Withdrawn from UK market from January 2018.
Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018): At A Glance
- New prices start from £21,055
- Contract hire deals from £401.90 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 25–26
- On average it achieves 90% of the official MPG figure
Fiat’s new roadster revives the much-loved 124 Spider with great effect. While it's based on the Mazda MX-5, there are subtle changes to the steering, gearing, suspension and interior, giving this car a personality all of its own.
But let’s start with the biggest change of all – the engine. Under that long, Fiat-badged nose is the Italian carmaker’s 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol. It produces a healthy 140PS while returning a claimed 44.1mpg. Not bad for a car that will hit 62mph from a standing start in just 7.5 seconds.
The styling is also different. Not only is it more aggressive than its Japanese sibling, it’s also aimed more at the US market, which explains the baby ‘muscle car’ vibe. Fans of the original 124 Spider should be satisfied, though – the hump in the front bonnet remains, there’s a hexagonal front grille and the rising tail over the rear arches is also similar to the classic design.
Inside, the Fiat feels more luxurious than many of its rivals. From the visible hand-finished stitching on the seats to the carpet on the inside of the boot, comfort was always going to be more important than on-track performance. While the layout is familiar from the MX-5, Fiat has added soft-touch materials and gloss details to lift the ambience.
And it’s the interior that sets the tone for the ride and handling. Don’t be fooled by the comfort, this is still a proper sports car that will delight keen drivers. It’s just that this incarnation of the convertible 124 is a much more forgiving Italian mistress. Gone is the breathless engine, the light and precise steering, and constant threat of a slap in the face – this model is more mature and easy going.
Standard kit includes air-conditioning, leather steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and keyless start. Not bad for the money.
All of which brings us to perhaps the most important difference between the 124 Spider and the MX-5 – the price. The Fiat 124 Spider costs over £1000 more than the basic MX-5, but less than the 2.0-litre. So it really comes down to which car you fancy. The normally-aspirated, more-involving Mazda – or the plusher, turbocharged, more placid Fiat. Whichever one you choose, though, you won’t be disappointed.
What does a Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018) cost?
Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
Behind the wheel of the 124 Spider is a neat place to be. You’re instantly struck by the fit and quality of the interior. There’s hand-finished stitching on the leather steering wheel and seats, lots of chrome-plating, while the needlework on the soft-touch dash is so good that Mazda ‘borrowed’ the idea for its harder, less plush cabin.
The car’s instrument cluster is easy to read and well set out. Taking pride of place is the rev counter, with road speed to the right and a shared dial showing the fuel gauge and engine temperature. We’d been hoping that Fiat might look at the dash from an early X1/9 for inspiration (two large dials, one for revs, one for speed, one running clockwise, the other anti-clock), but it wasn’t to be.
Below the dash on the centre console are controls for ventilation, while the transmission tunnel hosts the control for the infotainment system. This isn’t always the most intuitive (or reliable system), however - but you can blame Mazda for that. Ours froze a few times, and at one point just went blank. It is a touchscreen when parked, but must be operated using the rotary control on the move.
The fabric roof is easy to put up or take down. True, it's a manual rather than electric system, but this does help keep weight down and it has spring-assisted opening and closing. The optional infotainment system includes a seven-inch touchscreen with satellite-navigation, digital radio, MP3 player, six-speakers and Bluetooth connectivity.
We do have one small criticism of this low-slung sportster, however. It is almost impossible to exit the car gracefully. Long doors make it difficult to get out of in tight spaces, while the steeply raked windscreen can result in bashed heads. I’m sure a top Italian supermodel would have it down to a fine art – but average build six-foot blokes will find themselves falling out of the car rather ungracefully.
Classic is the entry-level model and comes with four airbags, air conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, a leather-trimmed gear knob, cruise control with speed limiter, 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless engine start and an infotainment system with USB, AUX and Bluetooth connectivity. A seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, WiFi, two USB ports and a multimedia control knob is available as a £500 option.
Lusso is the mid-range version. It has that seven-inch infotainment system as standard, but adds satellite navigation with 3D maps and the Parkview rear parking camera as well. It is also equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated leather upholstery, automatic climate control, front fog lamps, keyless entry, chrome exhaust tips and a premium silver finish on the windscreen frame and rollover bars.
Plus adds adaptive LED headlamps, LED DRLs, automatic lights and wipers and a nine-speaker BOSE sound system including stereo headrest speakers on both seats.
Child seats that fit a Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018) like to drive?
- Engines range from 1.4 MultiAir to 1.4 MultiAir Automatic
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 31–47 mpg
If you want a new 124 Spider, then you’ve only got one engine to choose from – Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4-litre. As such, the car instantly feels and behaves differently to the Mazda MX-5 on which it is based. Low down the rev range, there’s very little going on (apart from turbo lag) – but as the blower starts to work its magic, it delivers a healthy dollop of torque across the middle of the rev range.
This means that keeping it in the sweet spot is much easier than its Japanese cousin. You spend less time moving up and down the gears and can just enjoy the scenery. Speaking of gears, the ratios are all Fiat's own work and suit the turbocharged engine.
The six-speed gearbox is easy to work with, with neat and precise shifts. Perhaps the main criticism here is a sharp clutch that takes a bit of getting used to if you want to avoid stalling.
The steering is light and precise, perhaps a little numb in the centre position, but overall it provides plenty of feedback. It’s not twitchy – and it’s really easy to work with around town. You don’t have to break a sweat park the car – and yet you’ll still feel it’s a rewarding drive out on the open road. It’s a well-balanced package - but less immediate and direct than the MX-5, which feels more frenetic and involved.
It’s a similar story with the Spider’s ride. It’s firm enough to give you the confidence you need to tackle the twisty stuff, but it’s also perfectly capable of smoothing out poorly surfaced roads. Press on and you’ll notice that the front end grips well, while the safety controls makes sure the back behaves. The MX-5, on the other hand, feels firmer, particularly the 2.0-litre with its Bilstein dampers.
There’s no sport mode, though. And Fiat removed the option to turn off the traction control from our in-car menu. So keen drivers will probably have to wait for the Abarth-tuned version of the 124 Spider if they want a more sporty version.
The Abarth will deliver 170PS from the same engine, come with a limited-slip differential, plus a sub-seven seconds 0-62mph time. Oh, and a US-focussed automatic gearbox option. Expect it cost around £30,000 from new, though.
|1.4 MultiAir||44 mpg||7.5 s||148 g/km|
|1.4 MultiAir Automatic||43 mpg||7.6 s||153 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Fiat 124 Spider (2016 – 2018)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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