Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

True Sports Car That Delivers Flair and Fun

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

True Sports Car That Delivers Flair and Fun

Article excerpt

IF you had to bring two major manufacturers together to create a great small sports car you would not go far wrong with Fiat and Mazda.

The former for their Italian design flair and rich history and the latter for the Japanese nation's ability to make ultrareliable vehicles that are great value and fun to drive.

Enter the Fiat 124 Spider which is, in effect, the Italian MX-5 sporting different body styling, badging and some mechanical tweaks including Fiat's sweet 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and great six-speed gearbox.

And they really have managed to make the 124 look different to its far eastern sibling - for a start it is a little bigger and details like the fluted bonnet and higher rear panels make the 124 look a bit more aggressive and purposeful.

Now the latest MX-5 is a great sports car (as were all its predecessors) but the 124 Spider is even better to drive thanks to that higher torque Fiat power plant, which has almost 10 more bhp and peak torque lower in the rev range. That means you can leave the Fiat in gear for longer and enjoy the punchy performance and, thanks to that great manual box, when you do have to change up it is always a joy.

The engine sounds sporty too, but with extra noise deadening in the Fiat things are a bit quieter than the MX-5. Inside, the Fiat feels very well built, with soft-touch materials all around and a leather steering wheel plus a good standard kit list on our Lusso Plus 1.4 MultiAir Turbo version that includes leather heated seats, a seven-inch touchscreen sat-nav, cruise control, premium sound system with nine speakers, rear-view camera, LED headlights, keyless entry and go and 17-inch alloy wheels.

And, like the MX-5, the manual roof can be operated with one hand from the driver's seat - but I would not recommend trying this on the move. It also keeps things reasonably civilised inside once it's up by suppressing outside noise well.

The 140-litre boot isn't huge but good enough for a couple of weekend bags. There's also a lockable storage space between the seats and cup holders that can slot into different locations around the cabin to keep your drink perfectly positioned.

I used the spider to zip down to the launch of the new Jaguar F-Type 2.0-litre in mid-Wales and was blessed with sunshine all the way there and back. So the 124 was great fun on twisty B-roads - bringing back memories of wind in the hair motoring at the wheel of MGs in days gone by.

And after I had been testing cars costing twice as much, getting back into the Spider was no let down - this really is a driver's car.

Facts and figures wise 0 to 62 comes up in 7. …

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