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Engines on test: FCA Multijet turbocharged 1.4-liter

Fiat's 124 Sport Spider may be built on the ND-generation MX-5 platform but, thanks to a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine from the Abarth 500, it offers up a very different driving experience

 

The statistics for Fiat’s reimagining of its classic 124 Sport Spider, on paper, make for good reading. Besting the ND-generation MX-5 upon which it is based on both power and torque, Fiat’s decision to use its 1.4-liter turbocharged Multijet engine seems to be a wise one. The extra 48Nm give the 124 a low down torque that the MX-5 simply hasn’t.

The 1.4-liter originates from the 500 Abarth, albeit modified for its longitudinal mounting in the 124. At a structural level, the engine remains the same cast-iron block with its 72mm bore and 84mm stroke. This is paired to an Aisin supplied six-speed transmission that was used in the previous generation MX5, which utilizes a taller gear ratio more suited to the 124’s turbocharged power delivery.

That all said though, the peak torque figure is delivered at just 2,500rpm and drops off significantly thereafter. With its 138bhp peak being generated at 5,000rpm there’s a noticeable feeling of lacking from the car should you find yourself attempting an overtake whilst in this crossover. In reality the car is better suited to motorway cruising and A-road commuting than firing down a twisting B-road in pursuit of its Japanese stablemate.

Out on the road, the engine note of the Multijet also comes up short of sporting. There is an off-beat thrum to the engine at low revs, that burbles on upwards as the revs build. But the exhaust note isn’t pleasing, there is no intake noise – not even a faint turbo whistle – and the overall delivery lacks a sparkle or energy that should be associated to a small Italian two-seat convertible.

It’s in keeping with the rest of the car though; the 124 adopts a much softer approach than the MX5. The more supple riding nature of the 124 is instantly noticeable across the broken roads around our Surrey base, and it encourages a more relaxed approach to driving. The low-down torque and taller ratios mean that around town pottering can be comfortably dispatched in forth gear, whilst fifth and six are there for when the speed limits increase. The upshot of this combination is the 124 delivers a real world mpg close to the factory claims of 44mpg. Over our time with the car, individual journeys regularly saw 38mpg.

There is something hugely enjoyable about the 124. It isn’t a dynamic rival to the MX5, but an affordable, small, Italian styled, Japanese engineered and built two-seater convertible sounds like quite the mouthful, yet something that’s been long overdue too.

 

20 September 2017

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