2015 LA Motor Show – The all-new Fiat 124 Spider

Following the launch of the latest Mazda MX-5 earlier in the year, we’ve now got the second half of the tie in between the Japanese manufacturer and Fiat. Pay witness to the new 124 Spider.

2017 Fiat 124 SpiderThat the 124 Spider is making a debut at the Los Angeles Motor Show should probably tell you everything you need to know about the intended target audience for this roadster. Fiat clearly hopes to play on the American affection for the original 124 Spider, which proved to be hugely popular Stateside. In fact, from 1975 to 1983 the 124 Spider was only sold in the USA, which helped account for some 85% of the 200,000 cars made ending up across the Atlantic.

2017 Fiat 124 SpiderGiven that the links to the previous model are so important, this goes some way towards explaining how Fiat have used the same underpinnings as the Mazda MX-5 to produce something which looks, well, a little bland. Viewed from certain angles there are elements of Honda S2000 or second generation MX-5 creeping in, whilst the front is a pastiche of the original 124 Spider with added LED lighting. At the back are taillights and integral rear spoiler that have more than a passing resemblance to a Maserati GranTurismo.

2017 Fiat 124 SpiderIt’s not necessarily unattractive but does look a little bit dated already, when compared to the contemporary Mazda MX-5. (more…)

FIAT Panda Cross – Coming to Geneva 2014

Another day, another orange off-roader making its way to a Geneva Motor Show launch. Although today’s is slightly more budget conscious than yesterday’s Range Rover Evoque.

2014 FIAT Panda Cross 001

Yes, it’s a FIAT Panda, and about as budget a 4×4 as you can probably get. But, it’s orange so at EngageSportMode we approve. This new version is the Panda Cross, which is based on the existing 4×4 version but adds some extra grr-factor. Don’t think of it as just a styling exercise though; FIAT promises that the Cross will more than live up to its looks, with a host of features that should let it get stuck in (or not) when the going gets tough.

Big news for the Panda Cross is the standard ‘Torque-on-Demand’ system which uses the Electronic Locking Differential and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to juggle the engine’s torque between wheels with the most grip. This involves using the ESC system to brake wheels which lose traction, meaning torque is instead transferred to those still able to put power down to the terrain. A hill descent setting is also available from the Terrain Control Selector, meaning the little Panda Cross comes fitted with toys you would expect to find on far more expensive rivals. (more…)

F1 Inspired Road Car Specials

The new Renaultsport Megane Red Bull Racing RB8 featured recently isn’t the first, and is unlikely to be the last, road car linked to a Formula 1 racer. Here are five more with varying levels of motorsport credibility.

1. 2001 Fiat Seicento Sporting Schumacher Edition

Seicento Schumacher

Way back at the turn of the century, there was a German who dominated Formula 1, by winning championship after championship with consummate ease. He was also a little bit smug about it all. Sound familiar? (more…)

Filling The Hole: The Polo

Yesterday I mentioned how I would save the details of the Panda 100HP’s replacement until today. As promised, here is the new contender to fill the (obviously quite petite) shoes left by the baby Fiat:

Yes, like an errant homing pigeon finally finding the coop, I’ve returned to the Volkswagen stable. This 2006 Olympic Blue 9N3 model proved to be the best option when narrowing down the choices.

The biggest issue with being interested in cars and reading lots about them, is that you can pretty much make a pro’s and con’s list for any possible vehicle. So when you come to actually buy one for yourself, it’s possible to become lost in a wall of facts, figures, reviews and recommendations. In a bid to try to see the wood for the trees, I went back to what I know. The Polo. (more…)

End Of The Road: The Panda 100HP

Up until owning the Panda 100HP, I’d only ever had VAG products. Three Volkswagens and an Audi to be precise.

This presented me with something of an existential crisis as someone heavily opinionated on cars and the motor industry. How could someone who had only owned products of one (albeit huge) manufacturing group, really offer views on other marques? With VW Group cars I was well within my comfort zone; I knew where the headlamp switch would be, I knew the grab handles would be dampened and I knew what it would be like to own.

And so, to push myself outside the warm blanket of Volkswagen, I bought a Fiat; possibly the complete opposite of what I’d grown to expect from VW. Six months later, that experiment is over, the Panda has been traded in and I have moved on.

To try to make sense of this, here is a very short summary of what I loved and loathed about the Panda 100HP:


The Confessions Just Keep On Coming

Along with liking NASCAR, Engage Sport Mode is also willing to admit to other things. Like enjoying the music of Avril Lavigne (and seeing her live), thinking additional jalapeno peppers can improve everything and occasionally being wrong.

In this instance, the “being wrong” relates to a prediction made on this very website back in January. In that post I used the words to the effect that you should put “money on a Mk3 Panda victory” in the European Car of The Year awards. So certain was I that, like the previous Panda and numerous other Fiat products before it, that you could almost guarantee another victory for Turin. Rear windscreen sticker manufacturers were already to hit print, advertising executives were primed to see their updated adverts hit the TV, magazines and internets.

And then the Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall/Opel Ampera went and won. I mean seriously, what the hell?! Without trying to make some battery related pun I’d imagine that I, along with many automotive commentators, were a little shocked by this revelation. Fiat has won the ECoTY prize 9 times since 1964, more than any other manufacturer. Before today, General Motors had notched up only three previous titles (Astra; 1985, Carlton; 1987 and Insignia; 2009). So I’d imagine that in Luton some marketing types, who aren’t in Geneva, were tonight hastily scribbling together some kind of press release. I’d imagine it’s going to look something like this: (more…)

A Further Update on Italian Week

After the Alfa Romeo-fest which the previous post turned into, I felt the need to redress the balance in favour of other marques from the boot-shaped state.

I had to include this car somewhere, as it transported me back to a time long forgotten; before the dominance of the internets, twitter and public opinion in the form of online car forums. No, it isn’t a classic Ferrari, Maserati or Lamborghini. It’s this:

Whilst trawling Pistonheads to find the stuff to write about below, I stumbled into the Fiat Cinquecento section. “Section” is possibly the wrong word to use as, if you take a look for yourself, it’s actually the only Cinquecento for sale on Pistonheads at present. There are actually more Ferrari 288 GTOs (2) or Apollo Gumperts (2) advertised for sale than tiny Fiat city cars. The mind boggles. (more…)

I Could Afford That / Classified Dreaming #2

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid all cardshops, department stores or Moonpig adverts recently, then you would’ve missed the fact it was Valentine’s day yesterday. Fortunately I did remember so I’m here to bring forth another installment of I Could Afford That/Classified Dreaming. To perpetuate a very tedious link (for which I apologise profusely) Italy and the Italians are often considered to be very romantic; so this weeks edition has a certain Italiano flavour. So if music be the food of love, lets look at some cheap cars.

I Could Afford That

Finances only extend to Cava not Champagne? Tesco value chocolate over Thornton’s? Fear not, below is an ensemble of vehicles sure to win you affection with the Azzurri.

1998 Alfa Romeo 156 1.8 16v – £1,495

As saloons go, you cannot deny that the 156 is a looker

So the antipasti for today’s menu is this really rather lovely Alfa 156. Along with being an (more…)

Car of the Year: ESM is ahead of the curve

Today the seven cars nominated for the 2012 Car of the Year award were unveiled.To summarise the choices are:

– Chevrolet Volt (hybrid schmybrid),
– Citroen DS5 (seriously?!),
– Fiat Panda (hurrah!),
– Ford Focus (yawn….snore),
– Toyota Yaris (………………),
– Volkswagen Up! (an ESM favourite),

And, finally, what’s this at number seven? Could it be the Range Rover Evoque? Why yes, yes it is! But didn’t you make that ESMCoTY2011 I here you ask? Indeed, very much so.

Like a Prius owner wafting freely through the London Congestion Charge, this writer is rather smug at the moment.

Although, in reality, real CoTY judges prefer cheap Italian superminis. Put money on Mk3 Panda victory.

Yes, it’s a Panda


Telling people you drive a Fiat Panda seems to produce a number of reactions depending on how much the individual knows about cars.

Those whose automotive knowledge only comes from Top Gear, don’t really care. If Clarkson hasn’t set fire to it or raced it against a nuclear-powered submarine then it’s not important. (more…)