What's the used Fiat 124 Spider sports like?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Mazda MX-5 is the benchmark in the two-seat convertible sector, so what better car could there be to base yours on? This is one of many reasons why Fiat has partnered Mazda and, despite sharing a chassis, the 124 Spider is a fine convertible with enough alterations to give it a character all of its own.
Classic little open-top cars such as the 124 are dwindling in number these days and are mostly the preserve of premium brands. If you want raw thrills, the BMW Z4 can be had with a more powerful six-cylinder engine, while the Audi TT Roadster is available with quattro four-wheel drive. You could, of course, also go for the MX-5, which is the 124’s closest rival.
There’s only one engine in the 124: a turbocharged 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol that can be had with either a manual or automatic gearbox. If you are looking for hot hatch-rivalling performance, then you could go for the Abarth 124, which has the same engine tuned up to produce 168bhp. It’s a nice motor, although there is a little turbo lag at low revs that can be annoying, but once you've got the engine spinning you get plenty of mid-range shove and a racy soundtrack to accompany the power.
The steering – like the Mazda's offering – doesn’t offer any great feedback, but it is an electrically assisted rack. You’ll find it a little heavier than the set-up in the MX-5, but it’s still very consistent through the bends and wonderfully accurate. The ride is smooth for this type of car and the 124 generally feels more grown up as a result. It’s more for those who want a small sporty car but won't be driving it on the limit all the time.
Inside, you’ll find the 124 to be quite compact, with storage space at a premium. The boot is also small, but this is a similar story for most of the 124’s rivals. If you need to carry more, you’ll have to get a boot rack fitted as an accessory from a Fiat dealer. However, the dash is nicely designed, with all the major controls falling easily to hand. It feels well put together, too, and doesn’t suffer from much scuttle shake, despite the lack of a metal roof.
Classica trim comes with most of the basics such as air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and alloy wheels, but mid-range Lusso is better equipped with a 7.0in infotainment system that includes sat-nav, a rear-view parking camera, 17in wheels, heated leather seats, automatic climate control and keyless entry. Lusso Plus gets fancier LED lights front and rear and a Bose sound system, but isn’t necessarily worth the extra outlay unless the purchase price is right.