What is it?
Fiat has returned to the roadster market after more than a decade absent. The fondly recalled Barchetta was actually the last open-top two-seater made by the Italian firm, but as that was essentially a Punto underneath (and the new model is rear-drive), the naming convention harks back to the Pininfarina-penned 124 Sport Spider of 1960s vintage.
There are specific nods in the new 124's design to that car, not least in the 'floating' tail-lights and the kink running along the flank, but where old 124 Sport Spider also borrowed the running gear of a humble saloon (the 124), its modern equivalent gets a rather more bespoke platform - specifically the flyweight marvel used by Mazda to underpin its celebrated MX-5.
Even in an era of such alliances, the Japanese/Italian partnership feels like one of the car industry's more peculiar tie-ups. Nevertheless, it makes perfect sense when you're standing by the car, which shares the Mazda’s interior (a good thing) while substantially altering the bodyshell. Consequently, while it obviously shares the MX-5’s wheelbase, the Spider is a little longer (over four metres) and fractionally wider - two dimension increases that allow it a slightly larger boot. The cloth roof, a symphony of manual simplicity, remains unaltered.
Mechanically, the most notable evidence of Fiat’s own evolutionary development process of this car is the engine. Where the MX-5 is powered exclusively by naturally aspirated engines, the 124 gets its manufacturer’s familiar – and very much turbocharged – 1.4-litre Multiair unit. The relatively small four-pot’s 138bhp puts it between the MX-5’s two outputs, although its peak of torque is greater. Fuel efficiency isn’t quite as good as Mazda’s 1.5-litre engine, but 44.1mpg and 148g/km of CO2 keep it in the same ballpark.