The world needs more Italian roadsters. At the same time, Italian roadsters have usually needed better build integrity and reliability. Thankfully, Fiat has addressed both sides of this matter by introducing the 124 Spider, a classically influenced two-seat convertible that combines traditional droptop wonderfulness with traditional Japanese quality thanks to a partnership with Mazda.
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2017 FIAT 124 Spider Overview
What's New for 2017
Depending on your sense of perspective the 124 Spider is either an entirely new model or an end-to-end updating of Fiat's previous rear-wheel-drive Spider—which was introduced back in late 1966 and last sold here in 1985.
Choosing Your 124 Spider
The 124 Spider is the happy result of an engineering and production arrangement between Fiat and Mazda. At its core the 124 Spider is a Mazda MX-5 Miata wearing sheet metal heavily influenced by Fiat's classic 1960s Spider. The two use the same chassis design, suspension geometry and interior layout.
Even with the shared basis there are meaningful differences between the two. Instead of the Miata's naturally-aspirated motor, the 124 Spider features Fiat's own turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 MultiAir powerplant. The suspension has been retuned to Fiat's own preferences. And although the interior uses the same structure, the 124 Spider dresses it in more attractive materials.
Standard equipment for the 124 Spider includes features that would have absolutely amazed the engineers who worked on the original Spider, including pushbutton ignition and Bluetooth connectivity. They would have likely understood and appreciated the four-wheel disc brakes and the easy-to-use cloth convertible top, though. Fuel economy estimates are the same regardless of trim package: 26 city/35 highway estimates for the manual transmission, 25 city/36 highway for the automatic.
Option lists are extremely short: each trim level has one or two available technology packages, and the automatic transmission is available across the board for $1350.
The 124 Spider is available in three trim levels:
The old Spider was always more about la dolce vita than high-strung performance, and the new 124 Spider shares that charming character. In being more lighthearted and less of a purist sports car than its Miata fraternal twin (save, maybe, the racy Abarth) the 124 Spider is able to be more things to more people and can be more an individualistic expression. Find the version that most closely matches your personality, then find a romantic destination at the end of a winding two-lane road.
2017 FIAT 124 Spider Review
In 2017, Fiat made its triumphant return to the world of roadsters with the resurrection of the 124 Spider. Despite its family name, this small drop-top is actually more Japanese than Italian. It's built on the same platform as the legendary Mazda Miata.
Does this Miata-based roadster actually give Mazda buyers something to think about, or is it just an alternatively styled Miata?
Pricing and Equipment
Like the Miata, the Fiat 124 Spider offers a lot of value in the sports car segment. Sure, it’s not overly powerful or fast, but it offers great handling, plenty of features, and a low starting price of just $25,990. At this price, the Spider comes with:
- 16-inch alloy wheels
- LED taillights
- Keyless ignition
- Six-speaker audio system
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Buyers looking for more features can opt for the Technology Collection ($1,295), which includes a 7-inch display, voice command with Bluetooth, a rearview camera, and more. There are also two better-equipped trims available, the plush Lusso and sporty Abarth, which run $28,490 and $29,190, respectively. (All prices include destination fees.)
The 124 Spider features a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The latter contributes heavily to the 6.8-second 0-to-60 time we noted.
- Outmuscles the Miata with its 160-horsepower 1.4-liter engine
- Shifts directions with the best of them, particularly the Abarth model
- Pretty quick to 60 mph for its class
Despite the additional torque, the 124 Spider is actually slower to 60 mph than the Miata, which completes the task in 6 seconds flat. The difference is the Spider's mild turbo lag. The automatic transmission makes this lag even more noticeable.
- Mild turbo lag actually makes it a tad slower to 60 mph than the Miata
- Automatic transmission puts the turbo lag front and center
- Paddle shifters are not offered on all models
Inside, the 124 Spider has more soft-touch materials than the Miata, making it feel like a classier rig. We also noted that the seats are surprisingly comfortable during quick, cross-town jaunts.
- Higher quality materials than the Miata
- Seats are plenty comfy for short hauls
- Well equipped from the base model up
While the seats are great for short hauls, the comfort level deteriorates quickly after a few hours. We also had a hard time finding small cubbies to store things like phones and keys.
- Seats get uncomfortable after a few hours
- Storage space is very limited
- Touchscreen looks like it was forced
The Most Pleasant Surprise
It’s hard to compete with the nimble Miata, and the 124 Spider does so admirably. We're particularly impressed with the Abarth model and its tighter suspension tuning that outdoes the base Miata.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
While the additional power looks great on paper, but doesn’t translate into better around-town driving. The turbo lag is very noticeable, especially on automatic-equipped models.
The Bottom Line
The Fiat 124 Spider is a great, better-equipped alternative to the Miata, but its extra power, while enticing, doesn’t translate into better performance. In addition to having a slightly better fit and finish, the 124 Spider also fits buyers who like to stand out in the crowd, as there are bound to be a lot fewer of these than Miatas prowling around.