The hotly anticipated, Mazda MX-5-based Fiat 124 roadster has been officially confirmed for an Australian launch, almost certainly before the end of 2016, and potentially alongside a hotter Abarth sibling.
The reborn Fiat 124 (the original 1966 Fiat 124 Sport Spider classic version is pictured above) is expected to make its world premiere at the LA motor show in November this year, rather than the larger Frankfurt show in September.
It will make its way to Australia around the third quarter of 2016, about 12 months after the imminent Mazda MX-5, which will launch in August from just $31,990 plus on-road costs. It's too early to safely speculate on Fiat 124 pricing, though we'd expect a moderate premium.
The lightweight and nimble budget convertible revitalises an iconic nameplate and will give Fiat a real halo product. In tandem with its Mazda MX-5 twin-under-the-skin, it’ll help revitalise Australia’s affordable roadster market, much like the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins did to the coupe market.
Pictured above: Mazda MX-5
Confirmation comes from Fiat Chrysler Australia president and CEO Pat Dougherty, who mentioned the 124’s local launch while explaining the rationale for discontinuing the Panda (two separate issues).
“With both the Fiat 500X and 124 to launch in Australia soon, we have been looking at the Fiat line-up in Australia to see what has been working and what hasn’t worked so well,” he said today in a statement sent to CarAdvice.
The 2016 Fiat 124 will be based on the Mazda MX-5’s rear-wheel-drive platform. Reports indicate that it will be powered a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine, rather than the MX-5’s 96kW/150Nm 1.5- and 116kW/200Nm 2.0-litre four-pot SkyActiv engines.
There will almost certainly also be a hot one with an Abarth badge, potentially using a detuned version of the turbocharged 1.75-litre four-cylinder petrol engine found in the Alfa Romeo 4C producing roughly 150kW to satiate anyone disappointed at the lack of a force-fed MX-5.
It's not clear if this one will also come to Australia, but our sources suggest it's highly likely that it will.
We’ll have to wait for the LA show to know the full story on the Fiat 124, but earlier this year we got some insights from an interview conducted by Edmunds with Fiat North America boss Jason Stoicevich.
“[The 124] will not be a rebadged MX-5. We will have our own style, our own stamp on it,” he said.
The Fiat 124 Spider will be built alongside the MX-5 at Mazda’s plant in Hiroshima, Japan. The collaboration between the Italian and Japanese car makers was initially set to yield an Alfa Romeo-badged car in addition to the fourth-generation Mazda roadster.
These plans were reportedly scuppered when Fiat Chrysler decided to refocus Alfa and have all its models designed in-house and built in Italy.
The 124 Spider will be Fiat’s first standalone convertible model since the Barchetta (pictured above), which was launched in 1995 and that went out of production in 2005.
Read our recent Mazda MX-5 review from Scotland here.