Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is not a Mazda MX-5 Miata. Well, it is. But it really isn’t.
Glad we got that cleared up. Any questions?
Why did Fiat bring this car to market?
That’s an easy one. FCA needs more product to prop up the Fiat brand in North America, so what would be better than doing a redux of the beloved 124 Spider that was sold here from 1966 to 1982? The 124 is probably the most well known Fiat vehicle this side of the pond, and it’s not like our market is saturated with nimble, low-priced two-seat roadsters. It’s a cute halo car to share showroom space with the Fiat 500, whose sales have dropped precipitously.
Why did Fiat go to Mazda?
This question answers itself. If you need a compact roadster, and you need it now, go to the mother lode. The gen-four Mazda MX-5 Miata, introduced as a 2016 model, is a perfect realization of that little roadster’s original intent – unfiltered sports car fun. It is arguably the best one yet, and it fits the Fiat mandate to a tee. This benefits Mazda too. As a relatively small, independent automaker, the influx of FCA cash can only be a good thing for Mazda.
Where is the Fiat 124 Spider built?
It comes from the Mazda Miata plant in Hiroshima, Japan.
We see the retro squared-off body that echoes that of the original Pininfarina design. Are there any other differences between the Miata and the 124?
Many. The biggest one lies under the hood. In place of the Miata’s naturally aspirated 2.0L four (155 hp, 148 lb-ft), Fiat drops in its own Italian designed-and-built 1.4L turbo four that makes 160 horsepower and a robust 184 lb-ft of torque from 2,500 rpm. It’s the same engine that’s in the Fiat 500 Abarth, only engineered for longitudinal orientation and sporting more turbo boost pressure.
By the Numbers: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider
Fiat has also retuned the suspension to its own specifications. They’ve engineered in more compliance and less body roll in the corners, which is a feat in itself.
The base transmission is a six-speed manual, although this tranny is actually from the previous-generation Miata as the new, lighter unit couldn’t handle the little turbo’s torque. A six-speed auto is optional.
What about the interior?
This tester is the Lusso model that starts at $36,495, and it gets a cabin swathed in leather, a back-up camera, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, 7.0-inch touchscreen, and heated seats along with 17-inch wheels (over the base 16-inchers), silver windshield surround, fog lamps, and dual chrome exhaust. Still, sliding into the Fiat’s seat is déjà vu. Save for the ritzier trim and a more cushy chair, this interior is all Mazda – which is all good. It is built to a high standard, the rotary HVAC controls work with expensive precision, and the 7.0-inch Mazda interface with its Germanic rotary controller adds a touch of upscale flair – if not a touch of frustration when it comes to messing with radio functions.