If you think products with Italian character make life seem just a little better, you'll want to have a look at the Fiat 124 Spider. That's because this compact roadster from the resurgent Italian automaker takes a familiar model, the highly esteemed Mazda MX-5 Miata, and gives it a European makeover. Notable changes include distinctive front and rear styling, a quieter interior with upgraded materials, and a turbocharged engine.
While it's true the 124 Spider manages to come across as a more upscale version of its cousin, there's only so much engineers could do to change the car's physical dimensions. Which means the interior is going to be snug and the cargo capacity limited.
Current Fiat 124 Spider
In restyling the 124's exterior, Fiat designers gave it a longer nose to accommodate a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. To visually balance out that elongated front end, designers also gave it a proportionally stretched tail section. In addition to shoehorning in that new powertrain, Fiat engineers retuned the suspension for an improved ride quality on rough pavement.
While there wasn't much interior designers could do with the dimensions of the Miata's cabin, they did add sound-deadening material that makes for a quieter environment. They also chose to use higher-quality fabrics and soft-touch materials in noticeable areas that further set the 124 Spider apart.
The Fiat 124 Spider is offered in three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and Abarth. Classica models come fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels, a manually retractable black soft top with a glass rear window, and LED taillights. Inside you'll find air-conditioning, push-button ignition, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with USB and auxiliary audio inputs and a 3-inch display screen. A Technology option package adds a 7-inch touchscreen interface with a rearview camera.
Step up to the Lusso and you get 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, and the goodies in the Technology package.
The racier Abarth trim level bundles a sport-tuned suspension, adjustable driving modes and a limited-slip rear differential, plus distinctive exterior and interior trim, quad exhaust tips and microfiber inserts on the seats. Stand-alone options include full leather or leather/simulated suede upholstery and Brembo high-performance brakes. Other possible options for the Lusso and Abarth include blind-spot monitoring, adaptive LED headlights and a nine-speaker Bose audio system.
The Fiat 124's turbocharged 1.4-liter four produces 160 horsepower (164 hp in Abarth models). A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a six-speed automatic transmission available as an option.
In our reviews, we found the Fiat 124 Spider's performance very similar to the Miata's, with the Italian roadster added weight largely negating its horsepower advantage. The Spider still feels fairly punchy with strong acceleration, though, and the six-speed manual makes for an engaging driving experience. (We found the six-speed automatic's responsiveness somewhat lacking, however.) Handling and steering are excellent, as expected, and the more compliant suspension of the Classica and Lusso provides a decent highway ride quality. But levels of wind, road and engine noise are high.
Used Fiat 124 Spider Models
The 124 debuted for the 2017 model year. There have been no significant changes since.