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New Fiat 124 Spider Snapped Out In The Open

By raccars Published

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The new Fiat 124 Spider was born out of corporate maelstrom, originally a joint project between Alfa Romeo and Mazda and finally emerging as a new sporty Fiat.

The back story

In the media frenzy surrounding the release of the new Mazda MX-5, it has almost been forgotten that the car started life as a corporate venture between the Japanese firm and Alfa Romeo, to be built at the Hiroshima Mazda plant in Japan but producing two entirely separate sporty roadsters. The Alfa Romeo half of the deal would be designed in Italy and follow closely the spirit of earlier Alfa Spiders. However, restructuring within the Fiat group during the development process saw the Alfa Romeo brand restricted to building its cars in Italy. Clearly the source material for the partly developed roadster was far too good to throw away and Fiat decided to hang on to it. Along the way, industry rumour has suggested that the end product could be badged Abarth but eventually it was confirmed that there would be a new Fiat 124 Spider, re-using the name of a car sold by the firm five decades earlier.

Since then the world has been eagerly awaiting information. Mazda has been proudly touting its new MX-5 which has been well received, and finally Fiat has allowed its 124 Spider out in public. Both the Japanese and the Italians have a fine history of creating entertaining and stylish budget sports roadsters, so the Mazda - Fiat match up sounds like a dream pairing. While there are basic similarities between the MX-5 and the 124 Spider, which is only to be expected from two cars sharing the same basic components, the finished products are recognisably distinct.

A more mature version of the MX-5

Spotted during testing, the Italian car is markedly longer at the front than the Mazda, producing a more elegant, BMW Z4-esque silhouette. The headlamps are tucked in neatly behind the prominent nose, while gently curved flanks sweep back to an aggressive, almost brutally truncated rear end, in the style of the Dodge Viper. The Fiat is more masculine and sporty looking than the MX-5, and apparently a hotter Abarth version is on the cards. Fiat has trademarked both the 'Fiat 124 Spider' and the 'Fiat 124' names in the USA, suggesting the firm could be considering a coupe version of the soft top.

Fiat 124 Spider: the nuts and bolts

The original 124 was a medium sized saloon, launched in 1966, so it has very little in common with the new car apart from its name and a front engine and rear wheel drive format. The current 124 is a quintessentially modern, lightweight sports car, apparently boasting a sub-1,000kg kerb weight. In true Italian style, the focus will be on entertaining handling rather than straight line acceleration and the 124 is expected to come equipped with Fiat's 1.4 litre MultiAir turbo engine, also used in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Abarth could easily tune this engine up to 200bhp and add its own stiffened suspension and uprated brakes for its own version of the 124. There have even been hints of a stripped down track edition of the car - steel wheeled, spartan and affordable.

Fiat is expected to provide an official introduction to the 124 Spider early in 2016 and the car is expected to reach forecourts by the summer. Details are unconfirmed at this point but to compensate for the power upgrade over the MX-5, prices are expected to start a little above £20,000. If you're tempted by the funky new Mazda MX-5 but like the idea of a bit of extra bang for your buck, it's probably worth hanging on for next year's Fiat 124 Spider.

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