New rear-wheel-drive, two-seat convertible priced from £19,545 and returns the Fiat 124 Spider name to showrooms almost 50 years after the original

The new Fiat 124 Spider is available to order now in the UK, priced from £19,545 to £23,295, with first deliveries expected in August.

It comes in three trim levels - CLassica, Lusso and Lusso Plus - and standard kit includes air-con, an infotainment system and 16in alloys. Its starting price pitches it above the Mazda MX-5, which starts at around £18,495.

Read our review of the Fiat 124 Spider

The rear-wheel-drive, two-seat convertible returns the Fiat 124 Spider name to showrooms almost 50 years after the original model was introduced. The new edition is the product of a joint project between Fiat and Mazda, and it shares the same platform as the latest generation of the Mazda MX-5.

Read our review of a prototype Abarth 124 Spider

Fiat’s offering does not use the Japanese car’s normally aspirated engines, however. The sole engine at launch in the UK will be a 138bhp version of Fiat’s 1.4-litre MultiAir II petrol motor, offering 177lb ft and paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

US-market cars will get a 158bhp version of the 1.4 MultiAir but there’s no indication yet on whether it will be offered in Europe. Fiat is also likely to offer the car with an automatic transmission in the US - as Mazda does with the MX-5 - but it’s unclear if the 124 will be offered in auto form in Europe.

The 124 Spider is slightly longer than the MX-5, but this is entirely due to slight increases in the front and rear overhangs; the wheelbase of the car remains the same. All of the main body panels have been changed, but the windscreen, header rail, manually operated fabric roof and the rollover protection are carried over from the Mazda.

The same can be said for the cabin; much more than the exterior, it is clearly derived from the MX-5’s with a very similar architecture that even incorporates a reskinned version of Mazda’s 7in touchscreen infotainment system on higher-end editions.

Fiat has tried to mix elements of the original 124 Spider’s styling with the new car’s looks, without it becoming overtly retro. The end result is a car that looks a little more style-focused and sophisticated than the needle-nosed MX-5. There’s a bluffer front end, incorporating a hexagonal grille and three-piece LED rings designed to echo the original car’s round headlights. The bonnet has a pair of ‘power domes’ - again, a nod to the later versions of the original 124 Spider.

The flanks have one of the biggest shifts away from the MX-5; instead of that car’s crease, which falls away towards the back wheels, there’s a pronounced kick up over the rear wheelarch. The rear gets rectangular tail-lights which incorporate reversing lights in their centre - another recent Fiat styling trend - and in another neat reference to the original car, the Fiat badge is mounted on the top of the boot instead of hanging from its vertical edge.

The 124 Spider line-up is bolstered by an Abarth version. It gets more aggressive front and rear bumpers, possible blisters on the wheelarches and a more powerful version of the MultiAir II engine, with around 170bhp. Following Abarth’s desire to produce more ‘extreme’ vehicles, the hot 124 Spider also gets the MX-5’s limited-slip differential as standard, as well as revised spring and damper settings that will prioritise agility and cornering stability over cruising comfort.

Q&A with Fiat brand director Olivier Francois

These are US-market cars. When will we see European versions of the 124 Spider and will they be much different?

You’ll see them at Geneva motor show in 2016. And yes, they will be tailored a bit more towards the European market. There are some differences, but I don’t want to get into details just now.

Why did you choose to bring back the 124 Spider? You could just as easily have chosen the X1/9, couldn’t you?

That’s funny, because we did indeed consider the X1/9. It’s another classic Fiat, and it offers the open-top experience as well, of course. But we decided that the brand equity was a bit stronger with the 124.

The launch cars in the US and Europe have relatively modest power outputs. Will you consider encouraging tuning of 124s? Are we going to see extreme versions of this car at SEMA next year, for example?

We already know there’s appetite for that. About one in five 500s sold here is an Abarth version, so we know the customer base is there. We might well look at doing a tuned version of the 124, therefore.

Would that have an Abarth badge?

It might have an Abarth badge, yes.

How have you tried to differ the driving experience of this car from the MX-5’s?

I’ll leave the details down to the engineers but believe me, the experience is very similar to what made the original 124 Spider so popular. By that I mean it’s fun to drive and has a perfect power-to-weight ratio.

What about pricing - will it match the Mazda’s prices?

It will be in the ballpark for the sector, for sure.

Blog - Why is Fiat bringing back the 124 Spider?

Blog - LA motor show is set to rely on Fiat for glamour

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A short history of the Fiat 124 Spider

1966 The 124 Spider makes its debut at the Turin motor show. Designed by Pininfarina stylist Tom Tjaarda, who worked on the Ferrari 275, the car goes into production with a 1.4-litre twin-cam motor producing 89bhp. It reaches the US market in 1968.

1970 The first major upgrade to the Spider brings a 1.6-litre engine producing a heady 109bhp - pretty decent for a car that didn’t weigh much over 900kg.

1973 An Abarth-tuned, 1.8-litre motorsport version of the Spider (backed by a homologation-special production version) wins the Polish and Acropolis Rallies as Fiat gears up the car for a full World Rally Championship campaign. It never quite fulfils its potential, though - and within three years it’s dropped in favour of the 131 Abarth.

1975 Fiat tweaks the Spider to comply with American crash regulations - and decides that it’s not worth making it similarly compatible with European rules, so a decade after launch, the car becomes a US-only model.

1979 The Spider’s transformation to an American model is complete; Fiat does a deal with GM to offer the firm’s three-speed automatic transmission. It also increases the engine size to 2.0 litres and changes the name to Spider 2000.

1980 Fiat switches the 2.0-litre engine over to Bosch fuel injection and introduces a catalytic converter. This set-up, with 102bhp, is designed for the Californian market but it’s offered as an option across the rest of the US.

1981 A turbocharged version of the Spider is sold as a joint development between Fiat USA and Legend Industries. It brings 120bhp and a 0-60mph time of under nine seconds, but many owners subsequently revert to normally aspirated specification after Fiat’s US dealer network is wound down in 1983.

1983 As part of its withdrawal from the American market, Fiat drops the Spider and hands production over to Pininfarina. The Italian design house brings the car back to Europe, as well as continuing to sell it in the US as the Spider Azzura.

1984/1985 The final couple of years' production at Pininfarina add just 4000-odd cars to the total number (taking it to nearly 200,000 units) but bring the most powerful edition of the Spider Azzura yet, with a supercharged version of the 2.0-litre engine producing 133bhp. The car’s engine would live on in other classic Italian cars, though; a further turbocharged development of the unit was used in the Lancia Delta Integrale.

Our Verdict

Fiat 124 Spider

Handsome, pleasant and a bit more grown-up than its Mazda twin, but not as stirring or as sporting to drive

Join the debate

Comments
48

18 November 2015

And everyone thought it would be the Italian car that would be the looker of the two when the collaboration was announced! this misses all the delicacy and proportion needed in a small sports car, and seems to have Fiat 500 details forced onto it.

To me this isn't a patch on the new MX-5 but to my eyes does actually look more like the Mk2 MX-5 than the new one does!

289

18 November 2015

The new Alfa Romeo/Fiat Spider was touted as using the New MX5 platform.....not nailing a Fiat badge to a MX5.
This has no 'Italian flair' at all, in fact most people would think it WAS an MX5 driving towards them at a glance.
What's the point in buying this with a crappy Fiat engine in it when you could just buy a MX5 which you at least know will be reliable and hold its value (and I don't even like MX5's - never have).
If this is the best FIAT can do.....!
Reminds me of the Suzuki SX4/FIAT Sedici...could hardly tell them apart, except that the Suzuki was more reliable.
Very disappointed, was expecting something really special reflecting the glory days of the 60's.

18 November 2015

The engine is the good bit, smaller but similar power to the Mazda, nowt wrong with Fiat engines.

18 November 2015

Yeah, I think it looks like the old MX5 with a different front, its a bit bland and disappointing really

18 November 2015

SO much nicer. So much prettier, but I doubt car design students these days ever use p-word and half of them probably don't even know what it means.

19 November 2015

Agree with Orangewheels

19 November 2015

I wasn't thrilled about the white one in the studio photos, but the red one looks a lot better. And the blue car shot outside looks quite nice. I'm not a big fan of the Mazda's squinty headlights and awkward tail lights, so this could potentially look better on the road.

From the back, the flat deck and squared tail lights has a hint of baby Maserati Grancabrio about it.

The Multiair engines should be lively, but it's disappointing that it won't use the MX-5 gearbox. I doubt an off-the-shelf FIAT gearbox will be an improvement on the Mazda item.

In any case, the Marchionne-bashers should be grateful this car even exists. FIAT's money helped fund the MX-5 in return for a 124 version; without it, Mazda may not have had the resources to turn out such a cracking car to start with.

MrJ

20 November 2015

I don't for the squint-eyed look of the new MX-5 at all - and I saw quite a few in the Cotswolds around launch date.

So, for me, this Fiat looks much better, though I'll probably go for a last-gen MX-5 with folding hardtop come purchase time after Christmas.

18 November 2015

I agree about its curious similarity to the previous MX5 (personally I think it references the Mk3 more than Mk2) and it's a shame they have done almost nothing to differentiate the interior. But - at least it does offer a different engine option and some will prefer the looks. Good news for buyers and good news for Mazda, as it should enable them to shift more units.

18 November 2015

Oh dear, what a missed opportunity this is. Promised so much but in the end the result looks like an MX-5 with a bad body kit. Still at least they've installed a Fiat engine that'll never let you down!

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