Car Review: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider

In many ways, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is the more powerful and premium MX-5 we never got.

The Fiat 124 Spider first hit the road in 1966 as a 2+2 roadster based on the 124 Coupe’s platform. The model lived a long life, as it ran all the way through 1982. When Mazda announced that it was creating an all-new 2016 MX-5 Miata, it also let out that it co-developed the roadster’s chassis with FCA. Initially, FCA was going to use the chassis to underpin an Alfa Romeo roadster, but it later chose to use it under a Fiat model. Then, in March 2015 at the Geneva Auto Show, FCA announced that the new Fiat convertible would resurrect the 124 Spider nameplate starting in 2016. The roadster was finally unveiled at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - image 1

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - image 1

Although it shares underpinnings with the new MX-5 Miata, the 124 Spider received an exterior styling of its own, sharing not even a single body panel with its Japanese sibling. The engine is also different, with Fiat opting to use one of its very own turbocharged four-cylinder unit.

If you’re among those who were whining about Mazda not offering a turbo Miata, then the 124 Spider might be what you’re looking for.

While they feature different exteriors and engines, the roadsters share an almost identical interior. That’s not to say Fiat was lazy and didn’t want to give the 124’s cabin an identity of its own. It actually has to do with reducing costs and the fact that the MX-5’s interior is very spacious and comfortable for a small car.

Drivetrain

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - image 2

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - image 2

Motivation for the 124 Spider comes from the same turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine found in the Fiat 500 Fiat 500 Abarth. Output figures are identical, meaning the roadster comes with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque on tap. That’s five horses and 36 pound-feet more than the Miata’s 2.0-liter SkyActiv powerplant. While horsepower is similar, the Fiat has a healthy torque advantage and benefits from it much lower in the rev range. On the other hand, the 124 Spider is 100 pounds heavier than the Miata, which means that the roadsters are pretty close as far as power-to-weight ratio is concerned.

Although the engines are completely different, the transmissions aren’t, meaning the Fiat can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. While the automatic has the same gearing as the MX-5’s save for the final drive ratio, the manual is a bit different due to the turbo engine’s rev range. There’s no word on performance yet, but the 124 Spider should be able to hit 62 mph from a standing start in around 6.9 seconds, a tenth-second slower than the Abarth, and nearly a half-second quicker than the Mazda MX-5, on its way to a top speed of at least 130 mph.

Safety

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - image 3

2017 Fiat 124 Spider - image 3

The Italian roadster is available with an array of safety features, including adaptive front headlamps, Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and ParkView rear backup camera. A high-strength body helps to dissipate energy while optimizing occupant protection, while the Active Hood system helps protect pedestrians in the unfortunate event of an impact. All models are equipped with airbags for both the driver and the passenger, as well as three-point seatbelts.

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