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 partnered with Mazda to produce this, the 124 Spider. Don't be put off by this coupling, though – despite sharing a chassis and a lot of other parts, the 124 is a fine convertible with enough differences to the MX-5 to give it a character and desirability 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 – indeed the Spider only ran for two years in the UK before production ceased in 2018. Of its rivals, 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.
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.
It’s a nice motor, the 1.4, 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.
What used Fiat 124 Spider sports will I get for my budget?
Prices for the Fiat 124 start at around £12,000, this for a good 2016 car with an average mileage for the year, bought from an independent dealer. Up this to around £12,000 to £14,000 for a good 2017 model, and between £16,000 and £18,000 for the last of the 2018 cars.
How much does it cost to run a Fiat 124 Spider sports?
Thanks to low weight and a small engine, the 124 is quite economical for a convertible.
There’s only one engine option, but it can be paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Manual cars have an average fuel economy figure of 44.1mpg under the older NEDC fuel tests and cost £155 to tax, whereas auto models are more costly, with a claimed 42.8mpg and costing £195 in road tax.
Buy a 124 registered after April 2017, though, and it’ll cost you £155 per year. That said, you’ll need to weigh that up against the lower purchase price of a slightly older car.
Insurance is broadly similar to that of the 1.5-litre Mazda MX-5; this is good news because the 124 is the more powerful car. You need to service the 124 more often, though, since it has 9000-mile intervals rather than the 12,500 miles of some rivals. Fiat offers fixed-price servicing plans to help with costs.
Which used Fiat 124 Spider sports should I buy?
Since there’s only one engine option, we’ll concentrate on the gearbox instead. If you really need an automatic, then you’ll have to be prepared to part with more money because it’s only available on top-of-the-range Lusso Plus trim. We’d stick with a manual because it suits the car perfectly and it’s one of the best gearboxes available on any car.
Mid-range Lusso trim gets you all you really need in a convertible and gets you the 7.0in infotainment screen that’s missing from entry-level Classica cars.
Our favourite Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 Lusso manual
What alternatives should I consider to a used Fiat 124 Spider sports?
The obvious alternative would be the Mazda MX-5. It can be had in a number of engine options, including an economical 1.5-litre petrol and a faster 2.0-litre unit with 158bhp, and you can get it with a folding metal roof. The MX-5 is a touch sharper to drive and its non-turbocharged engines are free from the lag that the Fiat's unit sometimes suffers from.
If you are looking for a more performance-oriented convertible, then a BMW Z4 is worthy of consideration. Not only is it plusher inside and comes with a refined folding metal hardtop, but its six-cylinder petrol engines also sound fantastic and are much more powerful than even the Abarth version of the 124. It is much more costly to run, though.