Pictures and words copyright Dominic Parkes 2017

I think the Fiat media co-ordinator was on the verge of changing her number and email address such was my dogged pursuit of reviewing the Fiat Spider.

Almost weekly, I could be heard whining and pleading to secure the car on my drive.

Now that I have had it for a couple of days, I am concerned I may be forced to review a series of base model Fiat 500s as a penance: not that there is anything wrong with the 500, just that it’s – well, you know – not a sporty two-seat drop-top.

The Fiat 124 Spider has been a long time coming, not just for me, but the whole world, and it fills a void in the Fiat line-up very nicely. It is hoped America will fall in love with the car too, as it marks a fresh push 50 years after the last huge hit.

America had a 20-year embrace with the last 124 Spider launched in the mid-sixties. For whatever reason, Fiat did not build on that success and the Mazda MX5 came along – which rendered any other two-seat roadster pointless, such was its brilliance.

Until now that is… I would choose the Fiat over the MX5 in a heartbeat. Why? Because it IS a Mazda MX5 in all but name. They are built side by side in the same factory and little is changed, except lights and badges, but somehow the Fiat seems to have more soul.

Climb behind the wheel and the long bonnet and slim letterbox screen make it a widescreen experience.
The biggest dial on the dash is the rev counter which tells you this car is about fun – this being the Lusso Plus model.

It boasts heated leather seats, air con, sat nav and parking camera, a very good audio system and alloy wheels.
All in all, the interior looks and feels more expensive than it is. The main difference from the MX5 is the engine – Fiat have gone with a 1.4 turbo-charged petrol engine, whereas the Mazda is non-turbo.

Mazda may claim a higher top speed, but the Fiat benefits from the turbo producing more power at low revs and making it a fabulous car in lower gears.

Being rear-wheel-driven, it corners beautifully which, in turn, makes you smile like a Cheshire cat rushing home for a fish supper.

It is an ideal family car too, as you can only take one out at a time, so no sibling-rivalry nonsense. My seven-year-old daughter insisted that the roof must be lowered, even though it was raining, which was fine until we had to stop at a junction. But that was not a problem as the roof is a one-handed affair with one simple click and takes two seconds.

Nobody expects a roadster to be massively practical, and the 140-litre boot isn’t exactly a bottomless pit, but it’s perfectly adequate for weekend bags or shopping.

A lockable storage space and a small ledge for the phone are all you get, but if you want multiple cup-holders and storage bins, go away and buy a people carrier.

Fuel consumption? Who cares? It will probably do 35mpg, but if that is a concern you have missed the point. This is a car you buy with your emotion, not your bean-counting hat on.

I can see only two problems. One: Nope, I have forgotten it. Two: I had to hand the keys back.


Car Tested: Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Plus. Price from: £19,545 (Tested £24,495) Economy/C02: 44.1mpg/148g/km
With thanks to Westover Fiat, Churchfields Road, Salisbury. 01722 444953.

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