A little longer, a little heavier, a little more powerful, and save for some bits in the cabin, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider looks and drives completely differently than the Mazda MX-5 it’s based on. The way it rides gives this 124 better compliance than the MX-5. As well, the interior finishing and seats are very Fiat and decidedly upscale.

The increased length serves to add a few cubic centimetres of storage to the diminutive trunk, while the increased power and weight negate one another such that the 124’s power-to-weight ratio is negligibly better than the MX-5.

Here in the Fiat 124 Spider, the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbocharged engine makes 160 horsepower and 184 pounds of torque, and what’s most interesting is that there’s little turbo lag and a pretty flat torque curve, giving the 124 the edge in terms of drivability.

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is available in the base Classica trim, the mid-level Lusso luxury-oriented model, or the Abarth which is unquestionably the enthusiast’s pick.

If you opt for the automatic, which you shouldn’t, there are some necessary steering wheel mounted shift paddles that are only available on the top spec Abarth model. The automatic shifter does allow manual control with the correct shift pattern – back for upshift, forward for down – but that’s not really the point. Do yourself a favour and buy the Fiat 124 Spider with a manual.

The cabin layout is familiar from the MX-5, but materials and finishes are better in places where it counts. The MX-5’s lack of a telescoping steering column burdens the Fiat with the same lack of adjustability. If steering reach were adjustable, we’d declare the driver’s seating position perfect.

After driving all three models, your choices are really the base Classica because it’s the lightest and simplest or, if you love a good suspension and the traction that a mechanical limited slip offers, then the Abarth is your choice. However, you’ll want to spec the optional Recaro seats and Brembo brakes. Be sure to ask your dealer for the Mopar exhaust – it’s not available from the factory – because it lends a feisty note to the 124 that it deserves.

Fiat will allow you to add all of the luxe options of the Lusso to the Abarth, if you’re so inclined. As well, the aftermarket is flush with excellent tuning options for the 124’s engine in its other applications, so expect tunes that will completely transform the Spider’s performance. We’re definitely looking forward to that.

With a more interesting design, completely distinct engine characteristics, better ride, and its range of luxurious and performance options, the Fiat 124 Spider is a much more compelling offering than the MX-5.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider
Base Price: $33,495
As Tested: $33,495 (Classica), $36,495 (Lusso), $37,995 (Abarth)
Notable Options: With the Abarth, order the Recaros and Brembos, plus the dealer-installed exhaust
Drivetrain: 1.4-litre four cylinder, 160 hp, 184 lb-ft, six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive
Performance: n/a
VVUZZ Recommended: The stylish and massively fun-to-drive entry-level roadster

 

Images courtesy of Fiat,

Published on Jun 16, 2016