Almost 50 years since the original was introduced, the FIAT 124 Spider is back! True to its celebrated nameplate, the all-new FIAT 124 Spider brings classic Italian styling and pure driving pleasure to a new generation, with its powerful turbo-charged petrol engine, sophisticated suspension and traditional rear-wheel drive layout.
Designed at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, the new FIAT 124 Spider takes its inspiration from the 1966 original, not only in terms of its proportions and stance but also in terms of its detailing. A horizontal line emerges from the front wing, kicking up over the rear haunch and flowing toward the tail lamp, aping the distinctive bodywork of the original car, while the style and position of the LED headlamps, and the hexagonal upper grille, both draw heavily from the details of the classic roadster.
The bonnet of the new sports car also emulates the twin power domes of the second- generation FIAT 124 Spider (a functional design feature necessitated by the fitment of larger engines) while the rear view is defined by two main features: the "seagull" wings, the upper surface of which fall inward toward the decklid, and the sharp horizontal tail lamps, which incorporate a new FIAT stylistic sign of body-coloured inserts launched with the new FIAT 500. An integrated rear spoiler enhances the aerodynamic performance of the new FIAT 124 Spider, while twin exhaust outlets underline the performance capability of the engine.
The interior of the new FIAT 124 Spider, in keeping with the exterior, mixes Italian style with the classic ingredients of a driver-focussed roadster. The low-slung seats are comprised of a lightweight net structure with a unique foam shape and are trimmed in premium upholstery, aligning the driver perfectly with the sporty steering wheel and ideally-located pedals and gear-shifter. The three-gauge instrument cluster with its central rev-counter hints at the excitement awaiting the driver, while soft-touch materials and unique detailing set it apart as a high-quality and elegant roadster in the tradition of its best Italian predecessors.
This attention to detail extends even as far as the operation of the soft top, with spring-assisted opening and closing - eliminating the need for a power assist system - and automatic window lowering and raising when the header-rail lock levers are operated. Even the seat structure is designed with the roof operation in mind - the narrow shoulder bolster allows the upper body to move freely, facilitating rapid and unrestricted roof operation from the driver's seat.
With the roof retracted and the side windows rolled down, the aerodynamics around the rearward-mounted windscreen frame of the FIAT 124 Spider have been optimised to guide the wind above the heads of occupants and towards the rear of the car, minimising both the amount of wind striking occupants directly and drafts buffeting from behind.
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. Wind noise is combated with the adoption of an aerodynamically-efficient design for the rear edge of the hood, A-pillars and header - even the seatbelt mounting position is located to minimise wind noise while driving with the top down.
The 124 Spider also uses sound insulation to reduce noise while driving with the top up. The soft top is fitted with a headliner inside the vehicle for improved sound absorption and there's a rear package mat to provide further sound absorption and insulation.
Of course, the FIAT 124 Spider is more than an exercise in nostalgic roof-down style - under the bonnet lies FIAT's venerable 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo engine producing 140hp and 240Nm of torque, driving the rear wheels for the first time via a lightweight, quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, specially optimised for this high torque output. The MultiAir induction system ensures responsive characteristics across the rev range while lowering fuel consumption under low or medium load, while the position of the engine nearer the centre of the car reduces yaw inertia and improves handling agility.
Key to the dynamic abilities of the FIAT 124 Spider is 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 and rear cross members 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 of the FIAT 124 Spider is comprised of a double-wishbone front and multilink rear arrangement, with a rear set-up 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 characteristics.
The new FIAT 124 Spider offers a range of technologies to enhance the driving experience while also keeping occupants safe and connected. The most important information is fed to the driver in the traditional way, via a three-gauge cluster with a large analogue tachometer in the centre, flanked by a speedometer and an information display. The standard infotainment unit offers a high level of equipment including a USB/auxiliary input, six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity, while the enhanced version features a seven-inch touchscreen display, DAB 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, is also available as an option. The system also provides drivers with access to Aha* and Stitcher* Internet radio apps via Bluetooth connectivity.
The pursuit of driving pleasure hasn't been at the expense of occupant wellbeing and the new FIAT 124 Spider has been engineered to meet the highest safety standards, with a high strength body engineered to provide excellent impact-absorption characteristics. In the event of a frontal impact, for example, multi-load path structures within the body distribute impact energy along two main channels, dispersing and absorbing energy within special crash structures and across the side sills, B-pillars and central tunnel.
Side impact energy is managed by a ring-like structure incorporating the rear portion of the sills, rear cross member and seatback bars, allowing the entire body to absorb the energy, while rear collision protection is provided by combining high-tensile steel and robust structures with strategic deformation control and load distribution channels.
Pedestrian-friendly "active" bonnet, stability control, traction control and rollover mitigation are all offered as standard. 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 grade.
The FIAT 124 Spider will go on sale in the UK during the second half of 2016 with pricing and final specifications announced at a later date.