Driven: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus
I’ve been very lucky and had the wonderful Fiat 124 Spider on test for a week. I loved every second with this little roadster. Here’s what I thought about the car after my time with it.
What’s The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider All About?
Fiat haven’t made a two seater roadster in 11 years – the last one was the Barchetta. Moving on rather swiftly to now, we have this, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. It takes its name and some styling queues from the original 1966 124 Spider, but underneath, it’s Japanese.
For the revised model, Fiat has joined Mazda to create the 124. So under all the Italian bodywork lives the chassis, interior and electronics of the ND MX-5 – a solid starting point for Fiat’s return to sports cars.
For our test car, we have the top-spec Lusso Plus. This means it has automatic rain and dusk sensors, adaptive LED headlights and a nine-speaker sound system by BOSE. Let me tell you, it sounds fantastic.
Starting at the front, the Fiat 124 has a bold face featuring a large black grille. Flanking that are the sunken-in headlight clusters, which look a lot like eyes. Within those are the ring-shaped daytime running lights. Up onto the bonnet, it flows almost seamlessly away from the bumper towards the windscreen, with the two scoop-like features being landmarks here.
Down the sides, the 124 doesn’t have any major details, but the one line that flows from behind the front wheel, along the door and then up and over the rear wheel really won me over. And then looking at the wheels, they just ooze Italian style. The simple, multi-spoke design is proven to look good on almost any car. It’s the same story with the 124. The 17″ wheels with this Passione Red paintwork makes for an almost iconic look.
At the rear the narrow, wide tail lights and horizontal approach to styling make the 124 look much wider than it actually is and that’s a really good thing for a roadster. It’s low, it’s wide, it’s punchy – it’s a performance car and the styling reflects that. For me, this car doesn’t have a bad angle. It’s just the right amount of cute, with just the right amount of aggressive.
In the Fiat 124 you only get the choice of one engine, but it’s a damn good one. In the MX-5 you can only get a naturally aspirated engine, as true to the Mazda ideology for the roadster. But Fiat must have seen potential in this chassis because they’ve decided to strap a turbocharger to their powerplant. They have chosen a 1.4L petrol which develops 140hp, with 240 Nm of torque. For a small boosted engine, it’s a fair amount of torque. You can feel it, even at low revs, which is really impressive.
It’s also not a bad performer when it comes to emissions either. The 124 will give you 44 MPG whilst producing 148 g/km of CO2. So it’s not the most efficient car in the world, but it isn’t designed to be. Compared to other sports cars though, it does do pretty well.
Because the 124 sports an Italian badge, it does mean it’s slightly more expensive than its Japanese cousin. Throughout the range, the 124 is generally about £1000 more than the MX-5. Prices start from just under £20,000 for the base-spec Classica, but if you were to go for a high-spec Lusso Plus like ours, it’s looking more like £25,000.
How Does It Drive?
Right from the moment you open the door to the Fiat 124, you know it’s going to be a treat to drive. Your first thought when getting in will be about how low it is. You sit inches from the ground, with your feet stretched out towards the pedals. Stepping out again is also a fun experience…
Pressing the start button, you hear the 1.4 turbo buzz into life and the dials in front of you all light up. We’re ready to go. It’s worth bearing in mind that before you do any spirited driving you should let the engine warm up first. The blue temperature icon will appear when the engine is cold, but once it goes out you’re good to go.
It doesn’t take a lot of thinking to figure out that the Fiat 124 is going to be a good driver’s car. It’s based on the MX-5 for goodness sake, so you know it will be good. Low centre of gravity, ideal weight distribution and RWD ensure that the 124 is planted and secure on the road at all times.
When you put your foot down, the inevitable turbo lag lasts for about a second, before the turbo spools up and surges you forward. Keep the revs high when you change gear and you won’t get bogged down as you keep accelerating through the cogs. It feels like an incredible versatile engine and while the noise from the twin exhausts may be a little quiet, it creates a fantastic burble when you come off the accelerator.
The engine will send you from 0-60 in 7.3 seconds. With the car only weighing 1050kg, the fact you sit at eye-level with everybody else’s door handles, it feels much faster than it is.
If you’re under 6 feet tall, the driver’s seat of the Fiat 124 is a nice place to be. The steering wheel is adjustable and so are both seats, so finding that perfect driving position is easy. However, if you’re blessed with the tall gene you may find the 124 to be a bit cramped.
Sometimes the steering can let a sports car down. Not so in the 124. The rack is nice and quick, with the wheel being the perfect diameter for some fun in the corners. It’s very direct and gives a lot of feedback – you really can feel everything through it.
While you’re in the corners, you will notice how level and stable the car remains – all whilst staying settled thanks to a brilliant suspension setup. It’s not the same setup as the MX-5 – and you’ll find that the 124 is much more comfortable than the former. But don’t for a second think that the 124 is soft. Yes, it is comfortable, but it can still perform in the bends.
What’s It Like Inside?
In a word, snug. The 124 is a compact sports car, and because of that, the interior is fairly minimal and simple. But just because it’s minimal doesn’t mean it isn’t well equipped…
In the centre, you’ll find a 7′ touchscreen infotainment system that features sat-nav, bluetooth, DAB radio and a host of other features. What’s nice is you can control this screen by a twist knob between the two seats. A very handy feature that is so much easier than reaching forward whilst driving.
Below the screen, you’ll find 3 more twist controls for all your air flow functions. Below those is an AUX port and 2 USB sockets. Also very handy and a must on modern cars now.
Next to the gear lever is a proper manual handbrake and behind that the infotainment control I mentioned earlier.
Between the two seats are two cupholders, which can be moved or removed oddly enough. They clip into the centre console and the passenger holder can be moved next to the gear lever if required. Right between the seats is the glovebox, which is rather handy. Above that is the release/clip for the manual folding roof.
All in all the interior of the 124 is a snug, cosy and light place to be, even if you choose all-black leather. I guarantee the functions you will use the most are the heated seat buttons.
Back in the boot, the 124 provides 140 litres of space, which is more than you would expect. Opening the boot, I was surprised at how deep it is. You can fit a remarkable amount of gear in there.
After spending a week with the Fiat 124, I didn’t want to give the car back. It creates such a positive reaction when people see it. With those big eyes, it’s an approachable and non-threatening car. I hugely enjoyed my time with the 124 and it really got me thinking about the benefits of open-top motoring. You can’t go wrong with a little red sports car.
Overall the Fiat 124 Spider is a fantastic roadster for Fiat to come back with. Right from the off the 124 was going to be good, being based on the MX-5. It looks brilliant, it sounds great and it performs well. It’s a roadster you can easily use every day.
Watch Our Video Review
To see more of this brilliant little roadster, take a watch of our full video review here.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus
- Price: £25,000 est.
- Engine: 1.4L turbocharged petrol
- Power: 140 hp
- Torque: 240 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph: 7.3 Seconds
- Top speed: 134 mph
- Weight: 1050 kg
- Economy combined: 44 mpg
- CO2: 148 g/km
Author: Daniel Barnett