Reviews

2017 Fiat 124 Driving Impressions


What do you expect of sports car? Level cornering? Feline reflexes? Eager responses? Quick steering with laser accuracy? The car as an extension of the driver’s will?

The 124 checks all the boxes, and scores a few bonus points. For example, with the top down the cockpit is fairly free of turbulence up to 80-plus miles per hour. Baseball hats stay on. Conversation is possible, albeit at voice levels well above living room decibels. With the top up, the interior is surprisingly quiet; wind noise doesn’t become a real issue until speeds advance beyond legal limits.

And for all its athleticism, the 124 is reasonably supple in the ride department, at least in Classico and Lusso versions. The Abarth version was available only for an autocross, set up in a stadium parking lot, where it performed impressively but provided no real sense of what it would be like to live with day to day.

The Lusso version, our main ride during our Southern California preview, was pleasant enough, although the 6-speed automatic transmission leaves something to be desired for this sports car application. Shifting is smooth, but leisurely, and the manual function, achieved by moving the shift lever fore and aft, yields similar unhurried responses.

The 6-speed manual, which is from the Miata inventory, is far more satisfying, with crisp engagements and a sweet clutch.

Thrust from the 1.4-liter turbo, 160 horsepower (164 in the Abarth version), 184 pound-feet of torque, is respectable, and there’s enough of it, particularly torque, to offset the 124’s extra mass. It’s the first application of this Fiat engine in a rear-wheel-drive chassis, and if it doesn’t rev as enthusiastically as the Miata’s naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four, there’s enough low-end punch to deliver sprints that should be pretty similar to those posted by its counterpart from Hiroshima. Let’s say 0-to-60 in about 6 seconds.

The bottom line: sports car fun with a welcome overlay of refinement.

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