Fiat 124 Spider review – read before buying your next car
Fun and stylish sports cars that are great drives don’t have to cost the world. Sure, you could remortgage your house to buy one of the elite supercars that adorn the bedroom walls of kids. Or you could just buy an infinitely more affordable Fiat 124 Spider, which is as slick and chic as it is modestly priced. It’s a perfect weekend car or run around for anyone looking for a two-seater with a real voguish charm.
Fiat 124 Spider design and looks
You may get a vague sense of déjà vu when you first set eyes on this attractive little Italian two-seater. The Fiat 124 Spider is simultaneously very much its own car and yet not. To save money on development, Fiat struck a deal with Mazda to use the MX-5 as a base car.
There’s something of the uncanny valley here though, with the essence of the MX-5 visible, yet obscured slightly by the flair and ‘Fiat-ness’ integrated into the overall design. What we’re left with is a beautiful mixture of Japanese function and Italian panache.
The novel new look is distinctive and fresh, somehow managing to look modern and yet able to evoke the spirit of driving around snaking mountaintop roads in the 124 Spider’s sixties predecessor.
Are used Fiat 124 Spiders good to drive?
There’s a lightness to this diminutive convertible that you mightn’t expect if you’ve ever been in an MX-5. This mostly comes from its subtle differences.
Most significantly, the Fiat uses a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine with a distinctive character and gruff note, providing lots of low-down thrust to make the most of the playful rear-wheel drive base. The Fiat is deliberately less focused than its Mazda sibling, feeling more accustomed to top-down touring than a scruff-of-the-neck thrashing. It therefore suits a different type of convertible driver.
Thanks to its compact footprint and decent visibility, the 124 Spider is easy to drive in town, and thanks to the engine’s supply of 160hp in a 1.1-tonne car, it makes mincemeat of motorway work.
The Fiat is deliberately less focused than its Mazda sibling, feeling more accustomed to top-down touring than a scruff-of-the-neck thrashing
Fiat 124 Spider interior – space, storage and style
While there are plenty of differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 on the outside and under the bonnet, it's a particularly tricky game of spot the difference inside.
In truth, the cars share almost identical interiors, barring the badges on the steering wheels. What does that mean? Well, in truth, a relatively plain-looking cockpit, but one that’s really very functional and therefore hard to fault. It’s comfortable, everything feels of a good quality and the leather steering wheel is, quite literally, a nice touch. For drivers who like to go topless in the winter, the heater vents are aimed perfectly at the steering wheel to keep your fingers warm. Smart.
As for space, well, you won’t be shocked to learn that it’s not exactly huge once you park your backside within the confines of the Spider. Larger drivers and passengers could well feel less like they’re sitting in a car and more like they’re wearing a metal jacket. That said, all but the most unusually tall will still fit in with relative ease thanks to the adjustability on offer.
For ease, the 124 keeps the Mazda MX-5’s infotainment system, which is no major cause for complaint. It’s well placed, easy to use and has everything you’d expect to find. Opt for the ‘Lusso Plus’ upgrade and you’ll enjoy a higher spec, crisper and all-round upgraded Bose stereo.
Fiat 124 Spider space and storage
As you may well expect, there’s not enough room to swing a cat in a 124 Spider. In fact, there’s barely enough room to swing a spider. The boot is more of a slipper too, though it’s large enough to fit a large suitcase or a couple of weekend bags. Just don’t attempt to fit a week’s worth of family shopping inside.
Despite the limited space inside, there are a couple of nice and quite unique storage solutions. Especially useful are the moveable cupholders, which can slot into two different locations.
The most pleasing cubby hole is the storage unit that sits snugly between the two seats. It’s lockable, providing some security, even if you leave the car parked with the roof down.
One other aspect worth mentioning is the manually retractable roof. No electric option is available, but the fabric top is super easy to use, with just one central clamp to release/lock and a simple retraction motion. With no electronic parts, it saves weight and – key if you plan to keep your car long term – means there’s less to go wrong.
Fiat 124 Spider running costs and reliability
The Italian brio and style are alluring. It’s what will likely draw potential buyers to the Fiat 124 Spider, after all. It’s the practical, stoic and reliable car underneath that keeps owners happy.
MX-5s have long had a reputation for being surprisingly hardy, seemingly at odds with their flamboyance. The 124 benefits from this, given its similarity. So too do any drivers who take the plunge and invest in one of these cracking little cars.
As for running costs, it’s a mixed picture. Expect between 35 and 40 miles per gallon. That’s not half bad for a sports car, of course. Though if fuel economy is high on your list of priorities, the MX-5 and its non-turbocharged engines are slightly more frugal.
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What cinch loves
Even the most petrified of arachnophobes would be hard pressed to hate this spider.Stylish, quick and affordable, it’s a weekend toy that would find no difficulty in being used as the daily commute car.
What else to consider? Fiat 124 Spider alternatives
The Fiat 124 Spider sets out to offer a traditional drop-top experience with modern engineering. Without treading on the even sportier MX-5's toes, it nails the brief, offering something unique to the segment.