One of the prettiest cars on the roads at the moment is the Fiat 124 Spider which was designed at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy and takes its inspiration from the 1966 original.

But would you believe it? It might look Italian but this Spider is more Japanese than European because under the posh body is the Mazda MX-5, probably the best small sports car around.

The interior of the new 124 Spider mixes Italian style with the classic ingredients of a roadster. Low-slung seats are comprised of a lightweight net structure with a unique foam shape and are trimmed in premium upholstery with a sporty steering wheel and ideally-located pedals and gear change.

And it was named best convertible by in their annual awards.

A panel of judges, comprising of road testers and writers, honoured the roadster for its combination of good looks, engaging driving dynamics and comfort.

Mike Best, head of sales at, said: “The Spider is easy on the eye, effortless to drive and perfect for cruising in comfort – bringing classic looks and the laid-back sensibilities of the Mediterranean to UK shores.

“It has a unique character of its own and is a worthy winner.”

The Fiat 124 Spider is available from £20,995 on the road and while it's based on the Mazda MX-5, there are a number of changes to the steering, gearing, suspension and interior.

But what is quite amazing is the engine because it is powered by just a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol which produces a pretty good140PS while returning more than 40 miles to the gallon mpg. On top of that it will hit 62mph from a standing start in just over seven seconds.

Not only does the engine produce 140PS and 240Nm of torque there is a lightweight, quick-shifting six-speed manual transmission, specially optimised for this high torque output.

The MultiAir induction system ensures responsive characteristics across the rev range while lowering fuel consumption under low or medium load, while the position of the engine nearer the centre of the car reduces yaw inertia and improves handling agility.

The three-gauge instrument cluster with its central rev-counter hints it has soft-touch materials and unique detailing which sets it apart as a high-quality and elegant roadster in the tradition of its best Italian predecessors.

Operating the soft top is easy to do with spring-assisted opening and closing which eliminates the need for a power assist.

Great care has also been given to the reduction of noise, vibration and harshness, with specially-tuned engine mounts, carefully-engineered isolation of the transmission and differential.

Inside, the Spider feels more luxurious than many of its rivals. From the visible hand-finished stitching on the seats to the carpet on the inside of the boot, comfort was always going to be more important than on-track performance.

It is more aggressive than the MX-5 and has been aimed more at the US market.

Standard kit includes air-conditioning, leather steering wheel and gear knob, cruise control, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and keyless start. Not bad for the money.

All of which brings us to perhaps the most important difference between the 124 Spider and the MX-5 – the price. The Fiat 124 Spider costs more than £1,000 more than the basic MX-5, but less than the 2.0-litre.

So it is up to you. You pays your money, the choice is yours. The normally-aspirated, more-involving Mazda – or the plusher, turbocharged, perhaps even more timid Fiat.

I’ve always been loyal to Mazda over the years but I must be honest. The Spider did tempt me.

The Fiat 124 Spider went on sale in the UK last winter ready for this spring.