Mazda loves to get around, worse than a two dollar hooker. There platforms are shared with many automakers, but we suppose that can be taken as a compliment, cause, well, we can’t deny they certainly know how to make a good car. The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is another one of those partners that share a lot of similarity to the ever-so-loved Mazda Miata MX-5, partly because, it’s the same car. However, not everything is as quite as it seems. Hmmmm…
While Mazda shares its same conceptual thought processes, Fiat has a different plan set out for the new 124 Spider. Mazda’s theory with the Miata MX-5 was to be a “drivers” car. Fiat, however, planned for the 124 Spider to carry a more competent Pacific Coast Highway cruiser approach. The design alone isn’t what we’d exactly call exciting – it carries enough significance to not show association with Mazda having a more cultured attendance. Our base spec’d Classica, started at $25,990 with a six-speed manual, pairing closely in price with the Mazda Miata MX-5 Sport. The Fiat is just mere few hundred dollars more. The Fiat 124 Spider can be dressed up in three overall trims levels including the infamous angered Abarth starting at $29,190; however, there is something about the raw basicness of our plain silver base 124 Spider Classica that we like – no touch screens, no back up camera, no leather – just a simple two door sports car.
Apart from some theatrical lines in the hood, and a semi-aggressive fascial expression, our Fiat 124 Spider is about as tame as they come. Our sampled 16-inch wheels provided calming road mannerism one might expect from a luxury sedan. The well weighted clutch pedal and slithering gear changing always delivered a silky smooth transition between gears. And the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine never seemed to hesitate when it came down to putting its 160-horsepower onto the asphalt. It picks up pace fairly well too sprinting from 0-60 in just under six and half seconds.
Sometimes turbo’s on a car that weighs just over 2300lbs seems like a waste – especially when Mazda mananged to pull theres off with a naturally aspirated engine. The turbo in the 124 Spider manages the job quite well. Minus some immediate turbo along upon setting off, it comes in quick just past 2000 rpms and holds its torque tightly to the end of the 7000 rev counter. Thanks to a short sixth gear ratio, it does almost manage to pull away on the highway without having to downshift – we like that. On an open twisty road, with the radio turned off, there is a subtle whistle of an exhaust blurb when taking our foot off the accelerator. Even with some fun twisty back roads behind us, the 124 Spider managed to average 25 mpg combined with mostly city driving – not bad for a little sports car, despite its EPA rated 30 combined mpg.
While the suspension on the 124 Spider is geared towards the softer side of things, the handling holds up well. There’s no vagueness from the well balanced steering wheel and the steering feels accurate – there’s no fuss. We like the body lean into the corners as well, feels like were more one with road and controllable. The brakes are really good here too having a quick stopping distance with a controllable brake pedal that doesn’t feel like were slamming our brakes in a traffic jam.
Sometimes cars can be overloaded with so much technology that we forget what its like to just drive. This bottom tiered Classica kept things in a simple prespective. We like the classy look of the radio controls and climate control knobs. With the interior sharing nearly identical characteristics with the Mazda Miata, we didn’t feel like we were in the Mazda, nor did we care that it was the same interior. The cloth seats were comfortable and supportive enough to make us complain about the little space inside or the fact we didn’t have storage capacity or a place to put our phones and wallets.
Driving the Fiat 124 Spider isn’t like driving a sports car – it showcases characteristics of a Grand Touring car. It’s not something you want to take to the track and nail the apex every time but more of something you want to enjoy the drive with. It has soul and feeling. Even though it can be quicker than the Mazda Miata, we don’t ever really felt like we needed to rush. With the manual drop roof top that can fold behind us in a matter of seconds, nothing else mattered but the road ahead. We just sat back and enjoyed the drive.
|2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica Manual:||$24,995|
|As Tested (including Options & Destination):||$25,990|
|1.4-liter MultiAir Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 160-Horsepower, Six-Speed Manual Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±6.5 seconds|
|EPA MPG: 26/35/30 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 25 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±310 Miles|