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- Highs Sexy Italian design, fun to drive, well-equipped upscale interior.
- Lows Laggy turbocharged engine, doesn't handle as crisply as its Miata cousin, lack of storage space.
- Verdict The Fiat 124 Spider is essentially a more refined but less performance-focused version of the Mazda Miata.
The Fiat 124 Spider is a Mazda MX-5 Miata swaddled in Italian evening wear and implanted with a turbocharged Italian heart. A joint production between Fiat and Mazda yanked the iconic 124 Spider nameplate from retirement to adorn a Miata that has had its bodywork and naturally aspirated engine swapped for retro-inspired styling evocative of the original 1960s 124 Spider and a Fiat-made turbo four. This sauce is spread over a more forgiving suspension that gives the Fiat a more relaxed overall demeanor than its Miata cousin.
What's New for 2017?
This modern 124 Spider was just introduced for the 2017 model year. Outwardly, the Fiat’s windshield header, front glass, and interior layout are traceable—read “nearly identical”—to its Mazda donor’s. The 124’s interior materials and finishes are slightly richer than the Miata’s, however.
- Classica: $25,990
- Lusso: $28,490
- Abarth: $29,190
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
In place of the Miata’s 155-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and six-speed manual transmission, the 124 Spider utilizes a 160-hp turbocharged 1.4-liter four mated to the third-generation Miata’s six-speed stick, which has ratios better suited to the turbo engine. But even with a horsepower and torque advantage over the Miata, the 124 has the lesser engine. It’s laggy, lazy, and delivers less all-out performance than the Miata’s mill. How is this possible? The turbo limits the Fiat’s usable torque to a narrow slice of real estate midway up the tachometer. It can be fun trying to keep the 124’s engine on boil by constantly working the buttery six-speed manual, but the nonlinear power delivery makes the task tricky. In spite of their shared architecture, the 124 Spider’s chassis isn’t as playful as the Miata’s. The Fiat is definitely fun to drive, with feedback-rich steering, flat cornering, good body control, and a firm brake pedal. But where the Miata is an autocross and track-day darling, the softer-handling Fiat is the roadster to buy if you prioritize sunny-day cruises over track events. The stiffer-sprung Abarth model, with 164 horsepower, is more of an eager little scamp.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Compared to the Mazda Miata, the interior of the 124 Spider benefits from upgraded materials and finer detailing, with more brightwork and fancy lateral seat ribs. Fiat also fits its own steering wheel, shift levers, and gauge faces. Standard 124 fare includes cloth seats, while Lusso models boast leather coverings, and Abarths have a mixture of faux suede and vinyl. Base 124 Spiders have manual climate controls, while Lusso and Abarth models gain automatic climate control and heated seats, but don’t expect many other luxuries. The Fiat has a small trunk and barely any cabin storage for phones, knickknacks, and the like.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The base 124 Spider Classica ships with a non-touchscreen radio perched atop the dashboard. Bluetooth, an auxiliary audio input, and redundant steering-wheel audio and phone controls are standard on every 124 model. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is optional on the Classica model as part of the Technology package and standard on the Lusso and Abarth. Users can also operate the touchscreen via a center-console knob. The Fiat essentially runs the same Mazda Connect infotainment software as the Miata, which is a good thing, since the setup is straightforward and benefits from shortcut buttons for audio, navigation, and home menus placed around the control knob.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.