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Fiat's version of the Mazda MX-5 unveiled

The Fiat 124 has an Italian heart but is made in a Japanese factory. What will enthusiasts make of it?

Do not adjust your eyes. This is what Fiat’s version of the world’s most popular two-seater sports-car looks like.

The Fiat 124 has been unveiled in the US on the eve of the 2015 Los Angeles Motor Show.

The Italian company has done a deal with Japan’s Mazda to take a version of the MX-5.

Fiat has fitted a unique body -- complete with a bold nose and rectangular tail-lights -- but the interior is identical to the MX-5 except for the badge on the steering wheel.

The Fiat 124 is not yet confirmed for Australia, however

The big news is under the bonnet. While the Mazda MX-5 has a choice of 1.5 or 2.0-litre power in Australia, the Fiat 124 uses a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder (119kW/250Nm) which has a fraction more power than the MX-5 and much more torque.

Both models are made on the same production line by Mazda in Japan; the Fiat deal was done because it was cheaper for the Italian maker to do a joint venture vehicle than design its own.

The Fiat 124 is not yet confirmed for Australia, however.

The local distributors have expressed a preference for taking only the high performance Abarth version, which is yet to be unveiled.

There are no details on what will power the Abarth but there is speculation it may get the 1.7-litre turbo four-cylinder used in the Alfa Romeo 4C, because Fiat is trying to create further differentiation between the Abarth and Fiat models in future.  

Either way, a Fiat 124 of some description should be in Australian showrooms by this time next year. Price is still anyone’s guess, but it will be difficult to justify a price much dearer than the MX-5 that starts from $32,000.