Posted by Dave Moore on 8 December 2015

fiat 124 spiderIt's almost 50 years since the original 124 Spider was introduced, but now it's back, bringing classic Italian styling and pure driving dynamics to a new generation, with turbo-charged petrol engines, sophisticated suspension and traditional rear-wheel drive layout.

Co-developed alongside Mazda's latest MX-5, the 124 is styled at Fiat's Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, and takes its inspiration from the 1966 original.

The car's waistline emerges from the front wing, kicking up over the rear haunches and flowing toward the tail lamp, while the hexagonal upper grille, both draw heavily from the details of the classic roadster.

The engine cover pays homage to the twin power domes of the second- generation Fiat 124 Spider and the rear view is defined by two main features: the famous 'seagull' wings, the upper surface of which fall inward toward the decklid, and the sharp horizontal tail lamps, while twin exhaust outlets underline the engine performance.

Inside, the Fiat 124 Spider, is studiously driver-focused, with low-slung seats comprised of a lightweight net structure with a unique foam shape and trimmed in premium upholstery. The driver contact points are the same as that of the Mazda, aligning with the sporting steering wheel and ideally-located pedals and gear-shifter. 

A three-gauge instrument cluster is featured with a central rev-counter while soft-touch materials and unique detailing set it apart as a high-quality and elegant roadster in the tradition of its predecessors.

The soft top, with spring-assisted opening and closing – eschews a power assist system – while automatic window lowering and raising occurs when the header-rail lock levers are operated. Drivers do not need to leave their seats to operate the roof.

With the roof and side windows down, the aerodynamics around the rearward-mounted windscreen frame have been optimised to guide the wind over the heads of occupants and towards the rear of the car, minimising both wind strike and draft buffeting.

Particular care has also been given to the reduction of noise, vibration and harshness, with specially-tuned engine mounts, carefully-engineered isolation of the transmission and differential as well as suspension components of differing resonances.

Under the 124 Spider's bonnet is Fiat's familiar 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo engine producing 103kW (that's 140 horsepower) and 240Nm of torque, driving the rear wheels for the first time via a speically optimased lightweight, quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is expected to feature on US, New Zealand and Australian models.

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The MultiAir engine's position of the engine nearer the centre of the car reduces yaw inertia and improves handling agility.

Key to the dynamics of the Fiat 124 Spider is that it inherits from Mazda its lightweight body structure, achieved using aluminium, high-tensile steel and precision engineering. A strong backbone frame, comprised of robust, straight beams, underpins the overall structure, while a front sub-frame conspires with rear cross members to connect the backbone to the front and rear sections to provide a structure that is light, safe and extremely rigid. Aluminium components include the bonnet and boot lid, front and rear bumper reinforcements, seatback bars, underbody cross-member and bulkhead panel.

The suspension comprises a double-wishbone front and multilink rear arrangement, with the rear engineered to increase toe-in under high cornering forces for improved stability. The straight steering shaft position ensures linear and positive steering responsiveness, with the electric power-assist (dual-pinion) system providing light, consistent and responsive steering.

The new Fiat 124 Spider offers a range of technologies to enhance the driving experience while also keeping occupants safe and connected. The standard infotainment unit offers a high level of equipment including a USB/auxiliary input, six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity.

Higher-end versios feature seven-inch touchscreens, digital radio, two USB ports, multimedia control, a reversing camera and a 3D navigation system, with phone calls, music and navigation all voice-controlled. A Bose premium sound system with nine speakers, including twin headrest speakers per seat and a subwoofer, will also be available as an option. 

The system also provides drivers with access to Aha and Stitcher internet radio apps via Bluetooth connectivity.

A pedestrian-friendly 'active' bonnet, stability control, traction control and rollover mitigation are all offered as standard, while features such as adaptive headlamps, reversing camera, rain-sensitive wipers, keyless entry ‘n’ go and voice-operated infotainment and navigations systems will be standard or optional dependant on specification level.

The Fiat 124 Spider will go on sale in right hand drive markets during the second half of 2016 with pricing and final specifications for New Zealand to be announced closer to the launch date.

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50 Years of Heritage: The History of the Fiat 124 Spider 

The original Fiat 124 Spider debuted at the Turin Auto Show in November 1966. Based on the Fiat 124 sedan and designed and built by Pininfarina, it went on sale in the US in 1968. Powered by a 1,438cc twin-cam engine it featured a five-speed manual transmission and four-wheel disc brakes. Sales ceased in Europe in 1975 but continued in the US where, in 1979, it was renamed Spider 2000 in honour of its new 1,995cc engine. In 1981 Pininfarina took over production and sales in Europe resumed. In 1982, production of Fiat and Pininfarina Spiders overlapped as Fiat built the last Spider 2000 models and Pininfarina began production of its own version, sold in the US as the Pininfarina Spider Azzurra (with leather trim, a stereo cassette player and power windows as standard) and in Europe as the Pininfarina Spidereuropa. Production ended in 1985 and of the almost 200,000 units built, more than 170,000 were sold in the US, and today, there are nearly 8,000 still registered there.

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