Fiat 124 Spider – Designed in Italy, Assembled in Japan, World-Class Sports Car
Early British sports cars from a bygone era, like the Triumph Spitfire and TR6, Lotus Elan, and MGB Roadster, had a romantic connection with its owners. The modernized Fiat 124 Spider is an attempt to recall the glorious motoring days of the original 124 Spider from the sixties and rekindle that romance. The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider combines the fascination of a British sports car from the 60s and 70s with reliable Japanese build quality from Mazda mixed with some Italian passion.
Incredibly sleek, light, and quick. One has to wonder why the driving experience for this two-seater, open-air sports car doesn’t quite fulfill expectations. Most of the content mix of the 124 Spider comes from the Mazda MX-5 Miata, such as its chassis, interior, and electronics. Fiat sculpted a new body, supplied the engine and retuned the suspension to their specs. Mazda assembles both the MX-5 and the Fiat 124 Spider at its Hiroshima assembly plant in Japan.
Underneath the domed hood is a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that spits out 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration from the rear-wheel-drive sportster, which gets going a couple heartbeats after punching the right pedal, is brisk and lively enough to gallop up to speed. The stronger and broader torque band afforded by the turbo gives the 124 Spider better low-to-mid-range power.
The optional six-speed automatic transmission is a good pick if you don’t like shifting, but the six-speed manual transmission is the better choice for a truly connected experience.
In the twisties, handling is predictably nimble. Just keep in mind that lateral grip isn’t the 124 Spider’s strength. That never has been the point for this class of sports cars, though, and that lack of grip makes the car more fun for those with a sideways inclination. Long trips might be wearisome for some riders. Thanks to its short wheelbase, we discovered the little roadster has a limited ability to soak up the bumps on rough pavement.
Thanks to the small engine and its bantamweight, the 124 Spider gets better gas mileage than most other sports cars. Fuel economy rings in at 26 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. We observed 31 mpg overall after our week with the Fiat.
Just Enough Room for Essentials
The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider has seating for two people and not much else. Passenger space is in short supply, with the car’s low stance and engine placement leaving little room for tall people to lean back and stretch out. While the steering wheel has a Fiat badge and the instrument cluster is a bit different, most of the 124 Spider’s interior is derived from the MX-5 Miata. The infotainment system, buttons, knobs, and vents come straight from the Mazda.
Cabin decor is nice and classy, with lots of soft-touch surfaces and detailed stitching in the upholstery trim and seats. We appreciate the use of acoustic glass and sound insulation built into the retractable roof and cabin, which translates to a comparatively quiet ride, if a bit of a bumpy one.
If you are seeking an affordable two-seater sports car that has a receding roofline and no practical purpose — and the Mazda doesn’t offer up enough flare for you — this restated Fiat should be on your shopping list. Other options for some two-seater driver’s cars include the Nissan 370Z and Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86. If you’re looking for a quirky cabriolet, consider the MINI Cooper Convertible or the Fiat 500 Cabrio.
The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda MX-5 Miata have much in common. However, there are some differences in the engine, curb weight, and suspension setup. Which do you think is faster? Head over to TFLcar’s YouTube channel to find out!
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso
|Price as Tested:||$33,725|
|Engine:||1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four|
|Drivetrain:||Front-engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Horsepower:||160 hp @ 5,500 RPM|
|Torque:||184 lb-ft @ 3,200 RPM|
|Transmission:||6-speed automatic w/ Sport Mode|
|Suspension:||Front: Double-wishbone w/ stabilizer bars
Rear: Multi-link w/ stabilizer bars
|Brakes:||Front: 11.0-inch floating; vented front discs
Rear: 11.0-inch floating; solid rear discs
|Tires:||Bridgestone Potenza S001 205/45R17|
|Fuel capacity:||11.9 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||25 City/36 Highway/30 Combined MPG|
|Turning Circle:||30.8 feet|
|Curb Weight:||2,476 pounds|