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Meet the MX-5's Italian brother, the Fiat 124 Spider


This is the Fiat 124 Spider; a two door, two-seater, drop-top unveiled at last week's LA Motor Show that looks to take on the Mazda MX-5 at its own game. It'll have quite a job of it too, considering the MX-5 is the best-selling roadster of all time.

Fortunately the Fiat has a little trick up its sleeve. Beneath those voluptuous body panels lurks the very same hardware you'll find in the MX-5. Yes, the 124 Spider will be built at Mazda's Hiroshima facility using all the same bits, which promises delightful results considering all the praise raining down on the MX-5 at the moment.

So let's explore what differences there are:

The styling represents quite a remarkable leap from the simple, minimal Mazda. There aren't many design references taken from the original 124 Sport Spider of 1966 either. Instead Fiat has gone for something quite bold; bordering on garish really. It's like a Dodge Viper mated with some-or-other Chrysler to produce a tea-cup sports car. So I have little doubt that Fiat's plan is to make a splash in America with the 124.

The 124's interior looks pretty much a carbon copy of the Mazda with a large rev counter dominating the dash, while the roof remains a manual rag-top.

Where the MX-5 bucks the current trend towards forced induction by offering a high-revving naturally aspirated four pot - with 118kW - Fiat has embraced the turbo era by shoving the 1.4-litre MultiAir from the Alfa Giulietta under the 124's rippled hood.

The motor is good for 105kW in its intended form, although we know that the very same unit is capable of 125kW in the Alfa Mito QV. So I expect to see a more powerful version that'll edge out the MX-5 on performance stats. Maybe even a properly mad Abarth version.

Suspension is the same as the MX-5 with multi-link at the back and aluminium double wishbones at the front. It's been subject to an Italian tweak, but there's no indication of how far Fiat's chassis makeover goes.

While the looks may be subjective (and have completely divided opinion on the interwebs), I can't argue with the 124's layout. It's the same traditional roadster format everyone knows and loves; two seats, engine at the front, driven wheels at the rear. Good Things. Now let's see if the 124 Spider makes it to our sunny South African shores.

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Article written by Miles Downard
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