2018 Fiat 124 Spider

2018 FIAT 124 Spider Review

The Fiat 124 Spider delivers fun-in-the-sun motoring, but with some significant compromises.
3 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Will Kaufman
Edmunds Editor

When Fiat decided to revive its famous 124 Spider nameplate last year, the company chose a partner known for making great modern roadsters: Mazda. Indeed, much of the 124 Spider's underlying structure comes courtesy of the Mazda MX-5 Miata. But the 124 is more than just a Mazda MX-5 in a costume. Fiat uses its own engine, transmission and suspension tuning, which in turn give the 124 Spider a distinct character all its own.

Like the Miata, the 124's diminutive figure is both part of its appeal and the cause of many of its shortcomings. Similarly, the small, turbocharged engine is likewise a distinctive trait with its own appeals and pitfalls: It's punchy and eager high in the rev range, but it's distinctly underpowered at low to medium rpm.

The Lusso and Classica express these traits very differently from the hot Abarth. The former are softer, and in some ways more relaxed, while the latter pairs exceptional handling with a ride that borders on harsh. Knowing what you want from the 124 Spider is important in choosing the right trim.

Other convertibles on the market come with fewer compromises. The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro convertibles offer more interior space, more usable trunks and back seats (small as they are), and they are available with significantly more power. The VW Beetle convertible and Mini Cooper convertible have small-car aesthetics and are easy to drive while asking for fewer sacrifices than the 124. But as generations of Miata owners (and owners of the old 124 Spider) will tell you, driving is more about the connection you feel with your car rather than how much you can fit in the trunk. And in that way, there's simply no substitute for the 2018 Fiat 124 Spider.



what's new

For 2018, the Fiat 124 Spider receives minor updates to its options packages.

we recommend

The Abarth (especially with the optional Brembo brakes) is truly the standout of the 124 lineup, dramatically improving handling for a moderate price increase over the midtier Lusso. However, for buyers more interested in a forgiving ride quality, the Classica trim, with the optional Technology Collection package, should cover most of the bases, and the extra tire sidewall on the smaller wheels will help with ride quality. In either case, we highly recommend the manual transmission since the automatic is frustratingly ill-matched to the 124's small engine.




trim levels & features

The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider is available in three trim levels: the relatively bare-bones Classica, the more comprehensively equipped Lusso and the aggressive Abarth. All three trims are powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It produces 160 horsepower in Classica and Lusso trims and 164 hp in the Abarth, and 184 pound-feet of torque in all three. Power goes to the rear wheels through either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.

The Fiat's base Classica trim offers little more than the necessities. Buyers get 16-inch wheels, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, cruise control, a manual tilt-adjustable steering wheel, and a four-speaker stereo system with a 3-inch display screen and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Pleasantly, the Classica also comes with keyless entry, pushbutton start, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

One package is available for the Spider Classica: the Technology and SiriusXM Group package. This adds a rearview camera, proximity entry, rear parking sensors, and an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch screen, voice controls, streaming music app integration, satellite radio and GPS capability. (GPS navigation is a separate dealer add-on.)

Moving up to the Lusso trim gets you 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic windshield wipers, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, and leather-upholstered and heated seats, along with the 7-inch infotainment system and all its features.

Fiat offers several packages for the Lusso. The Comfort and Convenience Group includes heated auto-dimming mirrors, rear parking sensors, a security alarm, universal garage door opener, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Opting for the Navigation and Sound Group adds navigation and a nine-speaker Bose stereo system. The Visibility Group adds turn-swiveling LED headlights and headlight washers.

There's also the Lusso Red Top Edition, which comes with a red convertible top, 17-inch wheels, Bose audio, the adaptive LED headlights and navigation.

The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth gets a performance-tuned suspension and a limited-slip differential, along with a driving mode selector with Sport and Normal modes, leather and microfiber-trimmed seats, and a handful of unique interior and exterior styling cues. The most notable option is the upgrade to Brembo brakes.

The Comfort and Convenience, Navigation and Sound, and Visibility packages are all available, as are Recaro seats.



trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso (turbo 1.4L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | RWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current 124 Spider has received some revisions to the distribution of options in its packages. Our findings remain applicable to this year's 124 Spider.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.0 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration3.0 / 5.0
Braking4.0 / 5.0
Steering4.5 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability2.5 / 5.0

Comfort

3.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort2.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration2.5 / 5.0
Climate control3.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.0 / 5.0

Ease of use3.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5.0
Driving position3.0 / 5.0
Roominess2.0 / 5.0
Visibility3.0 / 5.0
Quality3.0 / 5.0

Utility

2.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage2.0 / 5.0
Cargo space2.0 / 5.0

Technology

3.0 / 5.0

Audio & navigation3.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration3.0 / 5.0
Driver aids3.0 / 5.0
Voice control4.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
Steering, handling and braking performance are definite strengths for this lightweight roadster. Unfortunately, the peaky turbo engine and upshift-happy, efficiency-minded automatic transmission are a poor match, frequently leaving you without sufficient power.

Acceleration

edmunds rating
The tiny turbo-four is weak down low, only feeling eager and punchy at higher revs. Out in the real world, with the transmission's fervor for upshifting, you're often left lugging until the drivetrain catches up. Still, our measured 0-60-mph time of 6.6 seconds isn't bad for such a small engine.

Braking

edmunds rating
One of the 124's strong points. The pedal is firm and communicative, and the car tracks straight during panic stops. Brakes inspire confidence and work just as well in stop-and-go traffic as on back roads. Our tested panic-stop distance from 60 mph of 111 feet is average for a sports car.

Steering

edmunds rating
The steering is quick and very precise and offers useful road feel. Weighting is lighter than many sports cars, but is well-suited to such a small and maneuverable car. The steering, however, can be darty at highway speeds.

Handling

edmunds rating
The 124 changes direction well and exhibits minimal body roll around turns. But midcorner bumps can unsettle the chassis.

Drivability

edmunds rating
The 124 is slow off the line, but the car starts smoothly and consistently. The transmission is overly eager to upshift, and it frequently leaves you without power. This leads to lots of hunting around for the right gear during spirited driving, on hills, and while maneuvering through traffic.

Comfort

edmunds rating
The 124 doesn't have a lot to offer in terms of comfort. The ride is better than in many performance-oriented cars, but the seats are tight, and there's a significant lack of sound insulation. Plenty of other convertibles have more to offer when it comes to everyday comfort.

Seat comfort

edmunds rating
These seats are quite narrow. For larger drivers, the bolsters are prominent enough to be uncomfortable, but they're not big enough to effectively hold you in place. There's no lumbar support to speak of, and the headrests with integrated speakers are uncomfortably hard.

Ride comfort

edmunds rating
The ride will be too stiff for some; bumps and dips are translated throughout the car. However, it isn't harsh, and smaller imperfections are absorbed well. Undulating road surfaces or regular freeway seams cause an uncomfortable hobby-horse effect due in part to the car's short wheelbase.

Noise & vibration

edmunds rating
Wind noise with top down is well-controlled below 50 mph. With the top up, there are lots of mechanical noises, and at highway speeds it's a tossup whether wind and tire will be just noticeable or intrusive, depending on road conditions. The 124 Lusso's restrained exhaust avoids engine drone.

Climate control

edmunds rating
The knob controls are straightforward, and make switching between automatic and manual modes easy, though temperature selection isn't really graduated. The system can combat even high heat but works hard to do it. Having only three vents can add frustration to driving with a passenger on hot days.

Interior

edmunds rating
Some buyers will value the 124's diminutive stature, but there's no getting around the fact that being such a small car forces compromises in terms of seat adjustability and ingress and egress. Being a convertible, it also has some visibility issues, but the manual top is exceptionally easy to use.

Ease of use

edmunds rating
This car's small size brings all of the controls within easy reach. Drivers with long arms will find the infotainment control knob's placement awkward, especially when drinks are in the removable cupholders. Its few controls are clearly marked and easy to understand.

Getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
The door is long enough, but the tall, wide sill and low roof with the top up create some problems. Taller drivers and passengers will just about fold themselves in half to get in or out. The experience is about average for such a low-slung convertible sports car.

Driving position

edmunds rating
The seatback must be upright for the seat to slide fully aft, so tall drivers must choose between legroom or reclining. Beyond that frustration the driving position is appropriate, with the seat set low in the car. More adjustments might be nice, but there's no room for them in the cramped space.

Roominess

edmunds rating
The 124 is tiny, and it feels tiny on the inside. Not much lateral leg space or elbow and shoulder room. The low and thick windscreen frame adds to the claustrophobic feeling, even with the top down. The transmission tunnel takes up passenger-side floor space, making for a cramped experience.

Visibility

edmunds rating
Forward visibility is good, and rearview mirror visibility is better than average for this type of car thanks to the low, sloping rear deck. Rear three-quarter visibility is laughably bad with the top up, and the side mirrors are quite small, so blind-spot monitoring is a helpful extra.

Quality

edmunds rating
There's a mishmash of Mazda and Fiat parts in the cabin, so it doesn't feel all that cohesive. The sense of quality is a bit hit-or-miss: Soft-touch surfaces mix with flimsy-feeling plastics, and some pieces (notably in our tester, the rear folding-top release handle) felt looser than we'd like.

Convertible top

edmunds rating
The manual top is easy and straightforward to operate. It can be opened and closed very quickly, and it requires only mild contortions to reach. Taller drivers should exercise some caution. If they lean too far outboard, they'll find their skulls in the path of the upper side-window frame.

Utility

edmunds rating
You can't expect much utility from a tiny, two-seat convertible, and the 124 certainly doesn't deliver much. A weekend trip for two is about the most this car can handle. Other convertibles might offer more practicality, but that typically comes at the cost of size, weight and nimbleness.

Small-item storage

edmunds rating
The tiny armrest box is just enough for a wallet and keys, and there's a cubby for a phone in the center console. The "glovebox" behind and between the seats, while big enough for a purse, is difficult to access, and it's blocked if you're keeping something in the removable cupholders.

Cargo space

edmunds rating
The trunk is minuscule, with a small opening that's flat in the rear deck. Fortunately, the car is low to the ground, which keeps the liftover height from feeling overly problematic. Two soft overnight bags will fit, but don't plan on packing for much more than a weekend.

Technology

edmunds rating
The 124's infotainment system — borrowed from Mazda — is an easy-to-use unit with a good knob-based interface. It offers the features you expect, with the biggest omission being Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Driver aids are optional, and there are only a few.

Audio & navigation

edmunds rating
Navigation is easy to use, although it's not the easiest system to navigate points of interest with. Audio quality is middling, and the system has to be turned up quite a bit to compete with all the background noise. The tinny in-headrest speakers feel more like a gimmick than a necessary addition.

Smartphone integration

edmunds rating
Bluetooth is easy to connect and works well, including displaying incoming messages — although it will only recognize one message and one email app, at least with an Android phone. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but two USB ports mean passenger and driver can each charge a device.

Driver aids

edmunds rating
Optional blind-spot monitoring is a welcome addition with the small side mirrors, as is rear cross-traffic alert thanks to poor top-up visibility. The rearview camera makes it easy to take advantage of the 124's small size in tight spaces.

Voice control

edmunds rating
The Mazda-sourced system does a reasonable job interpreting commands and offers prompts to help you along. It's capable of entering navigation destinations and finding points of interest. Still, only a limited set of functions is available, and there's no Google or Siri compatibility.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.