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Fiat 124 Spider revealed at LA motor show


New rear-wheel-drive, two-seat convertible returns the Fiat 124 Spider name to showrooms almost 50 years after the original

The rear-wheel-drive, two-seat convertible returns the Fiat 124 Spider name to showrooms almost 50 years after the original model was introduced. The new edition is the product of a joint project between Fiat and Mazda, and it shares the same platform as the latest generation of the Mazda MX-5.

Fiat?s offering does not use the Japanese car?s normally aspirated engines, however. The sole engine at launch in the UK will be a 138bhp version of Fiat?s 1.4-litre MultiAir II petrol motor, offering 177lb ft and paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

While Fiat has yet to confirm performance figures, sources suggest that the 0-62mph time could well match that of the more powerful 2.0-litre MX-5 (7.3sec), since the 124 Spider trumps that car?s torque but is said to match the kerbweight of the lighter 1.5-litre Mazda.

US-market cars will get a 158bhp version of the 1.4 MultiAir but there?s no indication yet on whether it will be offered in Europe. Fiat is also likely to offer the car with an automatic transmission in the US - as Mazda does with the MX-5 - but it?s unclear if the 124 will be offered in auto form in Europe.

The 124 Spider is slightly longer than the MX-5, but this is entirely due to slight increases in the front and rear overhangs; the wheelbase of the car remains the same. All of the main body panels have been changed, but the windscreen, header rail, manually operated fabric roof and the rollover protection are carried over from the Mazda.

The same can be said for the cabin; much more than the exterior, it is clearly derived from the MX-5?s with a very similar architecture that even incorporates a reskinned version of Mazda?s 7in touchscreen infotainment system on higher-end editions.

Fiat has tried to mix elements of the original 124 Spider?s styling with the new car?s looks, without it becoming overtly retro. The end result is a car that looks a little more style-focused and sophisticated than the needle-nosed MX-5. There?s a bluffer front end, incorporating a hexagonal grille and three-piece LED rings designed to echo the original car?s round headlights. The bonnet has a pair of ?power domes? - again, a nod to the later versions of the original 124 Spider.

The flanks have one of the biggest shifts away from the MX-5; instead of that car?s crease, which falls away towards the back wheels, there?s a pronounced kick up over the rear wheelarch. The rear gets rectangular tail-lights which incorporate reversing lights in their centre - another recent Fiat styling trend - and in another neat reference to the original car, the Fiat badge is mounted on the top of the boot instead of hanging from its vertical edge.

The 124 Spider line-up is likely to be bolstered by an Abarth version. It?ll get more aggressive front and rear bumpers, possible blisters on the wheelarches and a more powerful version of the MultiAir II engine, with around 170bhp. Following Abarth?s desire to produce more ?extreme? vehicles, the hot 124 Spider is also likely to get the MX-5?s limited-slip differential as standard, as well as revised spring and damper settings that will prioritise agility and cornering stability over cruising comfort.

Fiat has given no indication on pricing - even the regular car is still almost a year away from reaching UK showrooms - but we?d expect the 124 Spider to be pitched slightly above the MX-5, with entry-level editions costing slightly more than the 1.5 Mazda, at around ?19,500.