Currently reading: Nearly new buying guide: Fiat 124 Spider
An alternative to Mazda’s MX-5 on which it’s based? You bet
John Evans
News
4 mins read
30 September 2021

Blink and you’d have missed them. The Fiat 124 Spider and its sister car, the more powerful Abarth, were on sale for just two years, from 2016-18. Fiat gave no explanation for their abrupt demise other than to say they were no longer on sale.

Pundits reckoned its failure to get the Multiair engines through the tough new WLTP tests was the reason. Whatever the truth, their departure was a sad loss for sports car enthusiasts who were now denied a capable and distinctive alternative to the brilliant but ubiquitous Mazda MX-5 Mk4 on which they were based (they even share interiors).

That’s enthusiasts wedded to buying new, by the way. The good news is there’s a decent number of used Fiat and Abarth 124s on the used car market at prices ranging from around £11,000 to £22,000. We’ve already covered the Mazda in this section (24 April 2019) and we’ll resist the temptation to refer to it again here, save to say that it’s useful to compare its prices with the 124’s.

Click here to buy your next used 124 Spider from Autocar

For example, as this was written, £11,800 would bag you an approved used 2017-reg MX-5 1.5 SE with 15,000 miles but, for the same money, there’s a younger, approved used 2018-reg Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 Multiair Classica with slightly less mileage. So, based on this snapshot, the 124 looks a better buy, except there are many more MX-5s for sale at a wider range of prices.

Anyway, we said we wouldn’t dwell on the MX-5. The 124 is powered by a 1.4 Multiair engine producing 138bhp; the Abarth the same engine but making 168bhp. It’s the sportier of the two with stiffer suspension, stiffer anti-roll bars, a limited-slip diff, stronger brakes and a ‘racing anti-glare kit’ (a matt paint finish on the bonnet, to you and me). It comes in automatic Sequenziale Sportivo or manual guises. You might think the manual would have been the more popular version, but on the used market availability is split 50:50. The auto’s appeal probably lies in its steering wheel-mounted paddles and provision of a Sport mode. Price-wise, the auto costs about £1500 more with a 2017/17-reg on 12,000 miles coming in at around £18,400. Meanwhile, the manual is available in standard and what, at the time, Fiat described as more elegant Scorpione trim. Prices start at £16,400 for a 2017/67-reg Scorpione with 14,000 miles.

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But you don’t have to spend that. Prices for the Fiat 124 Spider begin at around £11,000 for a 2017-reg Classica with 22,000 miles. The Fiat is softer and mellower than the Abarth and in many ways a more compelling alternative to the MX-5 (sorry). It, too, is available in automatic guise, but this time the manual version is way more plentiful. Entry-level Classica trim is a bit basic so stretch to mid-level Lusso if you can. We found a 2017-reg with 20,000 miles for £1500 more than that Classica. No question: Fiat and Abarth 124s are interesting cars and great value – worth remembering when you’re shopping for that MX-5.

BUYER BEWARE

Engine Water pump leaks are not unknown. Some parts, including the turbo system, can take weeks to arrive. Engine oil choice is critical on the Multiair engine. On 2017-reg models, a check engine warning light might be a thermostat issue.

Body Check the body for damage or poor accident repairs and the wheels for kerbside scuffs (especially larger-wheeled variants such as the Lusso). Some panels are aluminium meaning dents and dings can be more hassle to sort. 

Interior As with any convertible, check the 124’s interior for water leaks (running the car through a car wash is a good idea). 

 

Need to know

Fiat and Mazda approved used schemes offer similar benefits: a 12-month warranty and 12 months’ breakdown cover (both extend to Europe), and a multi-point, pre-purchase inspection.

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As with any convertible, check the 124’s interior for water leaks (running the car through a car wash is a good idea). Also check the body for damage or poor accident repairs and the wheels for kerbside scuffs (especially larger-wheeled variants such as the Lusso).

The 124 looks longer than the MX-5 – and it is, by 139mm.

More powerful Abarth has limited-slip diff and Bilstein dampers, also found on MX-5 2.0 Sport Nav.

Entry-level Fiat 124 Classica trim goes without a DAB digital radio, which is some oversight.

Our pick

Fiat 124 Spider 1.4 Multiair 140 Lusso: The engine pulls well from low revs while mid-level Lusso spec is a smart blend of the luxurious and essential, with items such as a silver windscreen frame and rear parking sensors.

Wild card

Abarth 124 1.4 Multiair 170 GT: This most expensive 124 features a carbonfibre hard top weighing 16kg and providing, claims Abarth, a quieter drive and an 80% clearer view than the soft top. Used ones cost from £20,000.

One's we found

2017 124 Classica, 22,000 miles, £10,999

2017 124 Lusso Plus, 31,000 miles, £13,000

2018 124 Lusso, 5000 miles, £15,795

2019 Abarth 124, 2000 miles, £22,000

READ MORE

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Comments
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Add a comment…
sabre 4 October 2021

One should not be a pundit to understand why the Fiat 124 spider was sold for two years only. The troubles mentioned about the engine explain why people prefered the Mazda MX-5 with its engine also built in Hiroshima. 

Flash Harry 28 February 2020

Fiat have form in turning a

Fiat have form in turning a good design on its head with either a bad facelift or a redesign like this.The donor Mazda MX-5 is gorgeous and this is a disaster.No wonder it did not sell and was withdrawn from sale.

pigglycat 27 February 2020

One more thing

Just like Mx-5, look out for rust at bottom of the window channels (the upright between the little quarter light) and main door window. These rust at the bottom but believe there is a service bulletin, as mine replaced without quibble.