The 124 Spider is the newest compact convertible in the Italian automaker Fiat’s lineup and the revival of a 50-year-old nameplate. But it’s no secret that the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is, at its core, a fourth-generation Mazda Miata with some added Italian flair.
The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider follows a tidy, classic rear-wheel-drive roadster profile, and it’s only around 155 inches long, overall. The 124 Spider’s windshield is framed in brightwork—an homage to the original model—and other features such as the ‘power dome’ sculpting for the hood, the hexagonal-upper grille, and the sharply styled, horizontally oriented rear lights hark back to the vintage Spider. There’s a flair in the side sheetmetal leading up and back to a point above those rear lamps, as well as a sharp rear lip spoiler.
Inside, the 124 Spider keeps it simple—again essentially with the same design of the Miata…which happens to follow, somewhat, the very straightforward layout of those heritage small roadsters like the old 124. The one exception is the standalone infotainment screen atop the dash. The second exception is that interior trims and surfaces are thoroughly modern in look and feel; you’ll find plenty of soft-touch surfaces here—and perhaps just a little more brightwork than inside the Miata.
The most dramatic difference for the Spider, versus the Miata, comes under the hood. The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is powered by a 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo four-cylinder engine, making 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It’s the same engine that’s now used in many other vehicles in the Dodge, Fiat, and Jeep lineups, yet this is the first product in which it’s mounted longitudinally, to suit this rear-wheel-drive sports car. It’s mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Fiat hasn’t released any hard-and-fast numbers regarding the Spider’s performance yet; and as of yet there’s no spec sheet for comparisons and contrasts with the Miata. But based on this engine’s more robust torque curve, we’d expect this engine to turn better acceleration times than the Miata’s peakier engine offers. The 124 Spider is likely a bit heavier, too, so that could potentially impact handling. The Miata weighs just 2,300 pounds in its base form.
The 124 Spider is built on essentially the same body and chassis as the Miata, with a double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension, plus a dual-pinion electric-boost rack-and-pinion steering system.
Just as with the Miata, the 124 Spider comes with a manual top, and Fiat says that the top requires minimal effort just as the one on the original Spider. In the case of the Miata, we’ve been able to easily open or close this top, in just a few seconds, with one arm.
The feature set of the 124 Spider includes heated seats, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with headrest speakers, as well as a seven-inch standalone touch-screen display with multi-media controls and Bluetooth connectivity. For interface, at the center console, there’s a selector that turns and presses, looking almost exactly like what’s offered in the Miata as the Command Controller.
If the interface itself in the 124 Spider is like that in the Miata, that’s not at all a bad thing; we’ve found this system to be quite easily navigable and lag-free, with plenty of redundancy—albeit with an available navigation system your smarphone will one-up for turn-by-turn functionality. The only thing we think some Miata shoppers—and perhaps 124 shoppers—will be left wanting is perhaps an “infotainment delete” option.
The first 124 vehicles in the production run will be limited-edition Prima Edizione Lusso models, offered with an Azzurro Italia (blue) exterior with premium Saddle leather seats. This special edition includes numbered plates, commemorative badging, and some limited-edition wearable items.