So what is the 2017 Fiat 124 spider?….well it’s the result of an engineering partnership between Fiat and Mazda, which produces the 124 Spider is alongside the MX-5 in Hiroshima. The partnership is similar to Subaru and Toyota in that the Mazda and Fiat share a platform. Fiat/Mazda take it further with 2 distinct engines, different styling and interiors. The most obvious difference of course is that the Fiat doesn’t use Mazda’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter SkyActiv four cylinder motor and that makes us happy. I am tired of hearing that the Mazda motor is the purer of the two, or that it is better and faster round a track……who cares, most people drive on roads. So instead, Fiat dropped their turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir four-pot, the same one they use in the Fiat 500 Abarth, only with 4 psi of additional turbo boost. The little Abarth is great fun but its short wheelbase means it gets unsettled on everything but perfect pavement. The 124 delivers 160 @ 5500 rpm and 184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm. Get the Abarth version and you get 4 hp more and the same torque.
FCA delivered us the Lusso model, which sports Leather seats and a 9 speaker Bose system to name a couple of items and of course a Rosso Red exterior…what else. First impressions are I really like the look of the Fiat, especially from the front, which looks spectacular. The superb LED headlights are scalloped into the bodywork, very much like the original’s. The old model had twin bulges on the hood and the new car follows this trend…..It looks epic. The Fiat is also 5.9 inches longer giving a slightly largo cargo volume by a small 0.3 cu ft, enough for a galllon of milk bit it refused to swallow a large Zappos box I needed to return to UPS. I stuck it in the passenger seat instead……job done. Nobody said sports cars are practical.
On The Road
It’s nothing short of a grin fest at any speed. I spent the whole week with the top down, even on colder San Diego mornings, and the very good heated seats kept me nice and toasty. One gripe to note is the transmission, ours was an auto and keeping it in auto mode causes lag if you are at less than 2,000 rpm. I quickly found using the manual mode and changing gear myself was way more satisfying and you could mitigate the lag by dropping to 1 in slow turns. Once you get past 2,000 rpm there’s a nice surge of turbo boost that you can ride along on all day. It’s a joy to just manually drop a gear and keep the engine in that very satisfying torque band. There’s also very little body roll, turn-in is sharp and you can feel everything through the chassis, you feel part of the car. This is what makes the car such a joy to drive, with 160 hp, 184 lb-ft and only 2,400 lb to pull around, you don’t need to exceed speed limits to have a great time.
The Fiat 124 Spider gets stiffer suspension tuning than the Mazda across all three trim lines, Classica, Lusso and Abarth. The Abarth’s tuning is the most aggressive and includes Bilstein dampers, bigger wheels, stickier tires, a noisier exhaust system, and optional Brembo’s and Recaro seats. I would prefer the non Abarth versions as they are much quieter and attract less attention. I scared a few pedestrians when I drove the Abarth a few months ago.
We strapped on the test gear and recorded a 0-60 time of 6.35 secs, not super fast, a Golf GTI will out accelerate it, but this is not what the Fiat 124 is all about. Take it up to the mountains and seek out some twisty roads because this is where this car comes alive. You won’t need the radio, besides you can hardly hear it at speed, instead simply drive with a purpose and you become totally engaged with this car. It’s a precise, purposeful, driver’s car. Top down the sound of the engine improves, and you hear the turbo whine as it spools up, then you grab the next gear. Sensational! Wind is mitigated by a small screen behind the seats that cuts the breeze flowing into the driver compartment.
The Fiat and the Miata are fairly similar inside, room is tight for larger occupants, and the cup holders are a bit wobbly. I took them off and threw them in the cubby between the seats. Better that than a passenger with 1st degree burns from your latte. Forget the coffee and just drive. With no rear seat space and annoyingly no telescoping steering wheel it took a few adjustments to get an ideal seat position, but once I did it’s pretty comfortable. Fiat changed the gauges slightly, added a few soft-touch materials, added new door panels, and on the whole fit and finish is pretty good. The roof mechanism is delightfully simple and easy to use. I only put it up once all week, a simple reach back, pull over your head and click into place. Perfect. Our Lusso came with the Premium Collection which include the aforementioned Bose system, Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Park Sense and Park Assist as well as a bunch of other goodies for $3,795. Personally I would skip this and go for the Classica which starts at $25,990.
I ran more errands in the week I had the Fiat than in any other car. Forgot something at the grocery store, “I’ll go” and I did. Any excuse it didn’t matter I just wanted to be driving the Fiat. I’ve driven some pretty good cars so far in 2016, some of the quickest we have tested like the Audi RS7 Performance (0-60 in 3.25 secs) but I have to say this little Fiat 124 has been my favorite so far and I still can’t wipe the grin off my face. It summed it up when I pulled up for gas and a girl driving a Mini Cooper jumped out of her car and said “is that the new Miata?”, and I said “no it’s the new Fiat 124 spider”, to which she replied, “that’s sick”. Enough said, I would buy one too.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider Numbers
|Vehicle Type:||Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible|
|Base Price: Lusso||$27,495|
|As Tested Price:||$33,635|
|Engine:||Turbocharged and intercooled SOHC 16-valve inline-4|
|Power:||160 hp @ 5500 rpm|
|Torque:||184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm|
|Transmission:||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode|
|Curb weight:||2,436 lb|
|Zero to 60 mph:||6.35 sec|
|Top speed:||130 mph|
|EPA city/highway driving:||25/29/36 mpg|
|Our Observed Fuel Economy:||22 mpg|