2017 Fiat 124 Spider – Test Drive, Review, Ratings, Specs

SAMSUNG CSCA Well-Dressed Italian Roadster

There’s no longer a need to be in the super-rich category to enroll into the Italian roadster club. Despite the Asian fusion element of intermixing Mazda’s chassis and powertrain ingenuity and manufacturing it on Japanese soil alongside with the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Spider 124 still holds a few core design elements on its own that makes the Fiat 124 Spider a truly unique roadster experience.

In terms of styling, there’s just two options to choose from The base Classica gets you dual tip exhaust, standard with 16″ wheels, halogen headlamps, and LED tail lamps. Next up is the Lusso (“Luxury”) model that comes equipped with enlarged 17″ wheels, dual tip chrome exhaust tips, heated seats, and upgraded leather interior stitching.

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What’s Cooking Underneath?

Smooth and predictable acceleration is handled by Chrysler’s 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-four cylinder turbo engine breathing in fresh air from two of its integrated front hood vent. There’s not a significant amount of turbo lag, but it is noticeable under closer scrutiny. With that said, latching engine revs in the upper scale has its performance merits especially around corners. Power output doesn’t show too big of a punch at a rated 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Standstill acceleration; though, is quick on its feet, but the short gearing ratios saturates power quite quickly, so you do need quick to anticipate quick shifts to keep the flow of continuous power going around corners and straightaways.

SAMSUNG CSCMated to the engine is a 6 speed manual transmission that’s proven to be quick and responsive. It works well, but not considered creme de la crop quality, and that’s specifically comparing it to the more sharper and refined 6-speed manual transmission employed on the MX-5 Miata.

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Carving around corners in the Spider is fun and stable to say the very least with minimal body roll and there’s confidence to be had with the chassis stiffness, road grip on the upgraded 205/45R-17s and the smooth operation of the electric power steering. But the overall cornering experience feels flat, almost as if there’s a bit of absence in agility. Perhaps its the longer front vehicle hood, and its components mounted that achieves a less desirable to the perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

The Interior

Those familiar with the Miata MX-5 cabin space will feel right at home in the Spider as its components and layout are near identical. You get the center-mounted 7″ infotainment screen with a rotary console dial located in the center mount, and of course the integrated seat-mount speakers in the headrest area that really boosts the overall roadster audio experience.

Equipped on our Lusso model comes with a sand brown heated leather seats that provide plenty of cushioning and comfort even for longer drives. Lateral support was a bit tight for me, but still bearable; though the same can’t be said for someone with a wider body build. Still, the seating position sits low to the ground, and there’s enough open space within to roam your arms around without the constant impression of a tight squeeze.

The Verdict

There was never really a good alternative to the pricier Mazda Miata MX-5 roadster until now. The base Classica Fiat 124 Spider can be had for as little as $30,995 and our tested Lusso models comes priced in at just $33,995. Opting in for the more expensive Mazda Miata MX-5 will set you back closer to the $37,000 range.

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There are a few justifications made to the lower price point however. There were a few pet peeves revealed during our test drive, and that was primarily the lack of sound and wind insulation with the soft top, and retracting it requires a bit of force in an uncomfortable arm stretch. And the driving experience is just not as refined as the more sought after Mazda Miata MX-5 despite sharing some of its mechanical genetics in its design and manufacturing.

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Still, there’s plenty to like about the Fiat 124 Spider. It’s got classical Italian design looks, excellent fuel economy rated at an astonishing average of 36.5 mpg on the city and highway, and the overall driving experience coupled with the audio system and wind blowing in your face really just simply translates into an overall fun driving machine. It’s rare to get all the things we want in life sometimes, but the Fiat 124 Spider certainly comes close at an attractable and competitive price tag to other alternatives.

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Specifications

  • Vehicle : 2017 Fiat 124 Spider
  • Model : Fiat 124 Spider Lusso
  • Vehicle Type : Roadster
  • Seating Capacity : 2
  • Powertrain Configuration : RWD
  • Engine : 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-four cylinder turbo
  • Transmission : 6 speed automatic

Pros

  • Classical Italian Styling
  • Clean and comfortable Interior with decent material quality
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Fun driving experience

Cons

  • Flimsy and unergonomic retractable soft top
  • Transmission and engine is not as refined as its Mazda MX-5 comopetitor