2015 Los Angeles - Fiat 124 Spider returns

Come 2016, the much-loved Fiat 124 Spider will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. What better way to commemorate the occasion than revive the model itself? That's exactly what Fiat did with the all new 124 Spider that made its debut at the just-concluded Los Angeles Auto Show in California, USA. 

Affordable sporty roadsters are a dying breed with the Mazda Miata having the segment all to itself, well almost. Enter Fiat, with a deal struck with Mazda enabling the Italian brand to use Miata's underpinnings, to create a roadster of its own. That's right, Mazda helped Fiat develop a rival for Mazda's own Miata!

Essentially, the 124 Spider is a Miata wearing Italian clothes. Does it look sufficiently different to create its own identity? Yes, it is. Fiat's idea with this car is to pay homage to the original 124 Spider from 1966, a popular roadster in the USA that's widely considered to be one of Fiat's most beautiful designs ever. The mesh grille and circular LED ring in the headlights are a clear ode to the original as are the 'power domes' in the hood. The profile is a work of art and features a flowing design that oozes appeal with the roof down. The rear, again, is inspired by the 124 Spider of yore and has rectangular taillights with twin chrome-tipped exhaust pipes. Despite sharing its mechanicals with the Miata, the Fiat is longer and wider than the Mazda as evident from the longer overhangs. 

The interiors appear well finished but are very similar to the ones seen in the Mazda Miata. This is where Fiat could have made a difference and brought in Italian flair. Sadly, they have chosen not to. But then we aren't complaining as this borrowed cabin is a nice place for two to sit back and enjoy a relaxed ride. Classy bits in the cabin include beautiful chrome-ringed buttons in the center console and a 7-inch multimedia screen popping out of the dashboard. A 9-speaker premium sound system from Bose including dual headrest speakers is on offer too. Active safety suite include adaptive front headlamps, Blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection.

Powering the rear wheels of the 124 Spider is a turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir engine. For North America, the engine delivers 160 horsepower and 249 Nm of torque, mated to either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. The Mazda Miata is one of the best driver's cars currently in production and the 124 Spider sharing its mechanicals is expected to be no different. With such an accomplished chassis and forced induction underneath, the 124 Spider should be a hoot to drive.

When it goes on sale in summer 2016, the first 124 vehicles would be offered in a limited 'Prima Edizione Lusso' edition to celebrate the return of this classic nameplate. Exclusivity is guaranteed in the form of Azzurro Italia (Blue) exterior paint, premium leather seats in Saddle, individually numbered commemorative badge, custom wearables and a poster.


Hyundai's 'Genesis' luxury brand will make its debut shortly

So yes, it has finally happened. After resisting the urge to carve off an independent brand for its luxury cars, Hyundai has finally decided to launch a new luxury brand shortly. Guess what, it would be called 'Genesis'. That's hardly surprising, given that Hyundai tasted commercial success and critical acclaim with its first luxury sedan that carried the same name.

The South Korean brand's decision to launch a new luxury division wasn't unforeseen either. Hyundai dropped enough hints along the way with the biggest one being the debut of the HCD-14 Genesis Concept at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

The Genesis brand, Hyundai says, will adopt a modified version of the winged emblem that is currently used in the Genesis sedan. With plans to launch as much as six models by 2020, the Genesis brand will also adopt an alphanumeric naming nomenclature. With the 'G' prefix denoting Genesis, models would be named G70, G80, G90 and so on depending on the size and segment in which they compete. A new "Prestige Design Division" has been formed within Hyundai with Luc Donckerwolke, ex-Volkswagen Group designer who has penned Audis, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Skodas before, at the helm. Peter Schreyer, the man behind the design transformation of Hyundai and Kia in recent years, would continue to oversee the work done in the Prestige Design Division too. 

Remember the impressive Vision G Concept that debuted earlier this year? That could be an hint on what to expect from Genesis going forward.

The current Equus sedan is likely to kickstart things for the new luxury brand, albeit with a different name, followed by the Genesis sedan and another smaller sedan. A coupe and a couple of Sport Utility Vehicles are rumored to be in the fray too. To maintain their exclusivity, image and appeal, all Genesis models are expected to come with a rear wheel drive layout with optional all wheel drive in some.

While other details like the investments to be pumped in and plans for setting up exclusive dealership networks aren't available, Hyundai has said that South Korea, China, USA and the Middle East would be the first markets to retail Genesis-branded cars. Europe and the rest of the Asian markets will figure later in the business plan. 

When it does make its debut, Genesis would be having its hands full dealing with brands with irresistible pull like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz and well-established rivals like Lexus, Acura and Infiniti. Will Hyundai succeed in its luxury venture? Or is it taking a step too far too fast? Let's keep our fingers crossed.