The row had been brewing for a while. A proper, angry, Dad versus daughter row. It doesn’t matter what it was about. She went to her Mum’s for the evening, I sat at home and stewed. I later went to collect her. Nothing much said. We drove out of the city, in this Fiat 124 Spider. “Shall we have the roof down?” I asked. “Yeah”. I stuck her heated seat on for her. She didn’t notice. Through the suburbs; Yellow streetlights, pot holes, shuttered shopfronts. She put her music on. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Into the countryside, the release of the NSL sign on lovely, mucky roads. This car really needs to be revved. Out into the countryside. I know these roads. “Dad, the stars are beautiful!” she said, looking straight up. She turned up her music a bit. I turned it up a bit more. Almost home. “Shall we drive a bit more?” A little smile. Twenty sinewy miles of ups and downs; pitch black, roof down, tunes up. I know every corner and camber here, every change in surface and could probably accurately bet on where the cowpats lie, too. Brilliant little roads. “I don’t want to go home yet, Dad”. We do a few more miles, she’s nattering away. “Look at the moon!” Eventually, reluctantly, we get home. Roof goes up. Neither of us want to get out. She tells me all sorts of things. Things that make me understand her a bit better. “Why don’t we buy one of these? Your usual cars are rubbish.” I love this girl. I’m quite fond of the car, too.

A few words on those who buy cars with their heads, not hearts; This little roadster is powered by a Fiat built, 1.4 litre turbocharged engine that gives 138bhp and does 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds. I utterly wrung it’s neck everywhere I went and got over 38mpg. Responses are a bit soft when pottering, but when wound up and treated like a proper Italian sportscar it is torquey and responsive. The engine is the main difference between the 124 and it’s Mazda cousin. Readers might know I’m something of an MX-5 geek and could expect I’d favour it. From the restoration of my own early NA to making films about the 2 litre ND, it’s a model I know well. But I much prefer the Fiat. The engine is more rewarding than the MX-5, it feels slightly softer sprung, and then there’s the styling; The latest MX-5 looks, to me, like a kicked Alsatian. All angles and anger. Roadsters should be unashamedly pretty and fun. Like the 124. The wheels are simple and stylish. I’m not mad on the metallic white colour and it looks like I’ve been muck-spreading in the pics (sorry), but there are plenty of other options on Fiat’s palette. This is a pretty Roadster. Take the time to look at one on the road, if you see one.

 

Inside, in this model, I was spoiled with a voice recognition system, a decent satnav, bluetooth, cruise, climate control and heated seats. Handy but, thanks all the same, I don’t need any of it. The infotainment screen dominates the dashboard in an otherwise simple cabin, but you can turn it off easy enough. The odometer reset button is very long and spindly and will probably get snapped off like an old Lancia’s indicator stalk. The nav screen gives a beautiful backdrop when approaching junctions. Directionally perfect, but visually they over-egg it somewhat. Lush pastures and distant mountain peaks on the M1 – really? And you’ll love it all the same. It’s proper Italian.

There is something about Italian cars (and, despite the Japanese underpinnings this does feel exactly like an Italian car) that makes you pre-disposed to like it. That’s something that cannot be engineered. But there’s nothing superficial or obviously fashionable – that engine is a cracker and the performance is spot-on for a Roadster. This car will look as good in ten year’s time, as Mazda make their MX-5s even more aggressive and pointlessly sporty. Junior will be driving by then. And I expect she’ll be driving a Spider of her own. I look forward to it.

Further info on the 124 Spider on Fiat’s website, here.

Pics and words; Rich Duisberg. 

About The Author

Rich Duisberg

Rich's drivel regularly appears in Practical Performance Car and GT Porsche magazines. He has also written for Classic & Sportscar, MogMag, Classic Performance and Retro, Banzai, Evo, and Modern Mini. He also did a book no-one bought. His hungover fizzog also often appears on CBS’s Carfection channel enthusing about historic motoring. Le Mans winner Derek Bell once refused to get in Rich's Morgan Three Wheeler with him at the wheel. Currently amongst the detritus in his garage is a Porsche 968 Sport, MK1 MX-5, Sinclair C5 and a vintage Royal Enfield pushbike which he loves.

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