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Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • One engine only
  • 1.4-litre petrol
  • Turbocharged character

There’s only one choice of engine in the standard car, unlike the Mazda MX-5, which offers 1.5- and 2.0-litre units.

Buy a Fiat 124 Spider and it’ll be powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, so that’s an easy decision.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Italian car and the Mazda it’s based on – while the MX-5’s powerplants thrive on revs to deliver their power, the Fiat delivers its performance with readily available turbocharged ease.

That’s because the motor is boosted by a turbo, delivering 140hp and 240Nm of torque, the latter from a relatively low 2,500rpm.

The power doesn’t run out until 6,500rpm either, so there’s plenty of reason to run the Fiat up to its limiter, accompanied by a raspy, metallic exhaust note.

Snick through the fabulous six-speed manual gearbox quick enough and 0-62mph will tumble in 7.5 seconds, which is comparable to the 2.0-litre MX-5, while top speed stretches to 134mph.

With a smaller engine and turbo you also get respectable economy figures, with the Fiat’s fuel consumption and CO2 figures coming in between the Mazda’s two powerplants.

The more performance-oriented Abarth 124 is powered by the same 1.4-litre engine but comes with more power. With 170hp and 250Nm, the dash from 0-62mph drops to 6.8 seconds and pushes on to a higher top speed of 143mph. Unlike the Fiat, the Abarth is also the only one available with an automatic gearbox.

  • Softer ride than MX-5
  • Better for relaxed jaunts
  • Still a great steer

The 124’s suspension has been retuned and feels a bit more compliant here than in the MX-5.

It’s far from being overly soft though, capable of slicing through a series of bends with the same confidence as the Japanese car.

We reckon it’s marginally less precise and therefore the second choice of the two for attacking your favourite B-road. Dial your right foot back a bit and there’s still a lot of fun to be had, it’s just better-suited to a slightly more relaxed approach.

As with the Mazda you can expect wonderfully light but accurate steering, which gives you loads of information about the grip levels of the front tyres.