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LA show: Fiat 124 drops its top

Reborn: The 124 Spider helped to put Fiat on the world map in the 1960s, while the reborn version will offer more affordable open-top thrills when it launches next year.

Mazda-based Fiat 124 does not stray too far from familiar MX-5 silhouette

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Fiat logo18 Nov 2015

FIAT has lifted the lid – literally and figuratively – on its reborn 124 Spider, ahead of a debut at the LA motor show next week.

Based on Mazda’s recently launched MX-5 and built in the Japanese company’s Ujina plant, the 124 wears a different nose and tail treatment on the outside, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles engines can be found under the bonnet.

Its worldwide debut in January 2016 is part of an agreement between FCA and Mazda to launch the Fiat product six months after the MX-5. It is not expected to arrive in Australia until the second half of 2016.

“It’s a hugely exciting time for the Fiat brand both in Australia and globally, with some incredible vehicles joining the line-up," said FCA Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty.

“As we prepare to launch the Fiat 500X in Australia, our Italian colleagues have revealed the next evolution of one of motoring’s most storied nameplates, the Fiat 124 Spider. When Italian design is applied to a two-seat sportscar, the result was always going to be special, and the new Fiat 124 Spider doesn’t disappoint.

“And the most exciting part is that this is only the beginning of the Fiat 124 Spider story.”

The MX-5 is the 124’s most logical competitor in the two-seat, two-door, convertible space, though it is likely to drop into a price bracket that will see the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ included in shopping lists.

Holden’s new Cascada convertible offers the advantage of a rear seat, though it is not as sports-focused as the Fiat.

The 124 will launch with Fiat’s well-known 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder MultiAir engine, which has been re-engineered to sit in the north-south orientation that’s required for a rear-drive application a first for this engine.

The MultiAir will deliver 119kW of power and 250Nm of torque in this application. The same powerplant is used in other performance machines in the FCA range, including the Abarth Biposto 595.

These figures outdo the range-topping naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder MX-5, which makes 118kW and 188Nm.

The Italian-built turbo engine will be mated with Mazda’s own six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.

Fiat has added a new bonnet, bumper and headlights to the familiar flanks of the MX-5, while the rear end features a new set of tail-lights and a reprofiled bumper. A smattering of badges completes the exterior makeover, which also uses Fiat-badged Mazda rims.

Other than the addition of a horn badge, the interior of the 124 is an exact replica of the MX-5.

Equipment-wise, the US-spec 124 will come with adaptive front headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection and a reversing camera.

A repurposed Fiat Connect 7.0 system – based on Mazda’s system – with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, multimedia control, Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats and keyless entry will also be offered, along with a nine-speaker Bose audio system with headrest speakers.

Two variants, known as Classica and Lusso, will be available initially, while a total of 124 limited edition Prima Edizione Lusso cars will be offered at launch in the US.

The limited edition models will only be available in Azzurro Italia blue, with tan-coloured leather interior. There is no word on whether any of the limited edition cars will make it to Australia.

An Abarth version of the 124 is widely tipped to double the range, powered by FCA’s 1.8-litre turbo four that powers the Alfa Romeo 4C.

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