Hardly any other car showed the capabilities (and the weaknesses) of Fiat better than the 124. In Germany, from the word go, it sold itself almost as well as a local vehicle. Thereby, there was nothing about the car that was spectacularly new. It was a conventional car with a straight mounted 1200 cc engine, a four speed gearbox giving the power to a rigid rear axle. It originated from the still built Fiat 1100, with a more attractive shape and a higher amount of glass surfaces. It also replaced, together with the later appearing 124 S, the 1300 and the 1500. the interior space with the separated rear boot remained conventional. The design was not really influenced by the wind-tunnel. The wind resistance was probably almost the same, regardless of whether it was driven forwards or backwards. It was the art of Italian design, which helped this everyday car to achieve international distinction.
To be able to judge this car, one has to have driven it. First of all, there is the low waistline with the relatively high sitting position. This provides, e.g., in urban traffic, a very good all-round view. Unfortunately, the seat-adjustment is not sufficient for taller people. Best of all, would be to move the pedals further to the front. In addition, there is the fairly loud engine, which despite having only 1200 cc, is elastic and pretty spirited. This is brought about by the relatively short gear ratio, which however, doesn't cause the fuel consumption to be much higher. Admittedly, the handling qualities can't quite hide the fact that it has a rigid rear axle, but also because of it's relatively firm damping, the Fiat 124 is not really inferior to the competition, even though some of these already had front wheel drive. Nonetheless, it was still comfortable enough. Although the steering was direct, it was also somewhat sluggish and the gearshift was a little notchy. As a particularly weak point, the hand-brake which apparently worked on the rear disc-brakes, must be mentioned.
Indeed, if one considers, that it was 4 centimetres shorter than the VW-Beetle, then the space utilisation was much more effective. Certainly, the front passengers had to show consideration for those on the rear seats, therefore, the boot was very usable, despite having the spare-wheel on the left and the fuel tank on the right. Unfortunately the seats, because they were covered in imitation leather, were not very breathable. Also the backrests should have been a bit longer. Presumably they didn't want to disturb the low waistline, either that or they were thinking about still maintaining a level surface despite the reclining seat (standard in Germany) fittings.
This is what distinguished the Fiats of that period. Although technically speaking, they were not particularly innovative, that what was available was skilfully presented and provided a lot of driving pleasure. Thereby, it was especially important that they could be offered at a relatively reasonable price. This pointed to rational manufacturing. The Fiat 124 was produced in Italy and also numerous other countries. After the discontinuation of the model, the production plants were sold to the USSR, where since decades, the Lada is still being built. Although they don't have the same engine, they do have similar handling characteristics. It's quite apparent however, that they've also inherited the careless rust-prevention.
In Germany, at that time, Fiat was not looked at as being an importer. One had become accustomed to the solidly built, and sometimes snappy little compacts. With the 124, the company achieved, for the first time since the 1100, sales successes in a half a class higher. This would be continued, particularly as with the identification '124' a number of more sport orientated cars would appear. With the 128 they were able to top it all, but at the latest, with the 132, the shining Fiat star started to fade in Germany because of sinking quality and the uniformity of its products. After that and for a long time, it was said in this country: 'The best that Fiat can do is build compact cars'. 04/15