Is there anything else we should know?
Fiat seems to have tailored this car for those who love little roadsters, but perhaps find the Miata too focused and edgy. Along with aforementioned smoother ride and more comfortable seats, the Fiat 124 gets added sound insulation, a thicker top and an acoustic windshield. This all adds up to a more pleasant experience on the highway where conversation is now possible without losing your voice. Also, with the turbo engine spinning in the meat of its torque, brisk highway acceleration in top gear is just a toe tap away. In the Miata you’re dropping down a couple of gears to find enough juice for overtaking.
Yeah, yeah. Highway, shmi-way. What’s the Fiat 124 Spider like on a twisty back road?
Very nice. As with the Miata, the brilliant fabric top is a toss-over-the-shoulder affair, giving instant access to the roadster experience. I headed to my trusty back road loop to see if there was some Italian brio in this kissing cousin to the Miata.
The short-throw shifter delightfully snicks between gears, playing along beautifully with the quick clutch and pedals that are perfectly placed for heel-and-toe rev-matching. The driving position is spot-on too.
Steering is quick, but less edgy than the Miata’s. You can say that about the handling too. The Fiat’s turbo engine is a tad heavier than the Mazda’s atmo unit, and the car weights at least 70 kg more, so yes, you’re not quite so much at the pointy end of the driving experience. But damn, this is a fun car to drive, and I do like the Fiat’s flatter cornering demeanour. It seems a little quicker to wag its tail, too. As with the Miata, economy of motion is the key. Your body soon adjusts to the minimal inputs this car wants – a nudge of the wheel, a flick of the wrist and a tip of the toe.
What about the engine? More power and more torque = more better. Right?
Yes and no. First off, I was expecting a bit more aural stimulation in the exhaust department. After all, this 1.4L turbo engine in the Fiat 500 Abarth makes spectacularly rude noises. In the 124 Spider Lusso, it’s toned down to the point of non-descript. Apparently the edgier $37,995 124 Spider Abarth gets a noisier exhaust along with sportier suspension tuning, limited slip differential, sport seats, an extra four horses and unique wheels and body bits.