Fiat has revived the two-seater 124 Spider 50 years later in a bid to give the Mazda MX-5 roadster a run for its money.
Fiat says the BMW Z4-sized 124 Spider ‘brings classic Italian styling and pure driving pleasure to a new generation’ and it hopes to do this with a ‘powerful’ turbocharged petrol engine, rear-wheel drive and ‘sophisticated’ suspension.
The 124 Spider takes a number of styling cues from the 1966 original, including a horizontal line that starts from the front wing and flows towards the tail lamp via the rear haunch. It also has an integrated rear spoiler and twin exhaust outlets for a sporty look.
Inside the cockpit is a mix of Italian style, complete with low-slung seats covered in ‘premium upholstery’, a three-gauge instrument cluster with a central rev-counter and ‘unique detailing’.
If the Fiat 124 and MX-5 look similar, it’s because Mazda and Fiat are working together as part of a joint venture, which would explain why the chassis, wheelbase, seven-inch display and even the cockpit button layout are all exactly the same.
In fact, the 124 Spider will be produced at Mazda’s factory in Hiroshima, Japan so it shares the same home and that also means a kerb weight of below 1,000kg.
The seats have been designed to have a narrow shoulder bolster so the driver can easily operate the roof from the driver’s seat, which makes a lot of sense when you have to do it by hand. No electric luxury here.
Meanwhile the rearward-mounted windscreen has been optimised to direct the wind over the heads of the passengers so your finely styled hairdo or ear-warmer stays in place.
Turning the wheels will be the job of a 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo (borrowed from the 500 Abarth) with 140hp and 240Nm of torque via a six-speed manual gearbox.
Performance figures are unknown, but it should be nippy at the very least given the standard MX-5 has 129hp and takes 8.3 seconds to reach 62mph from standing, while the 157bhp 2.0-litre does the same in 7.2 seconds before topping out at 133mph.
Fiat and Mazda’s agreement means the MX-5 was allowed to be released in 2015 and Fiat’s offering 12 months later, so expect the 124 Spider to arrive around the summer of 2016. A price tag of around £20,000 seems likely.
If the standard 124 Spider is a bit tame, a more powerful and more aggressively styled Abarth version is said to be on the way.
With a whiff of the F-Type in there (a small one, admittedly) and even a baby Dodge Viper if you squint a bit, the 124 Spider has a lot going for it. Not that filling the shoes of the Barchetta is going to be the most difficult of tasks.