Fiat was smart when they partnered with Mazda to bring back the Spider. This was the sports car that graced Fiat from 1966 to 1982, and later reappeared as the Pininfarina Spider from 1983 to 1985.
Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?
Mazda already has a great two-seater sports car – one of the best on the planet – and the 124 Spider shares its underpinnings with the MX-5. Fiat was wise and saved the expense of developing its own sports car architecture from scratch, but did they get it right?
We drove the all-new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso to find out.
What’s New For 2016?
The all-new Fiat Spider benefits from the Mazda MX-5’s sporty chassis – it’s more rigid and substantially lighter than the previous generation convertible. Fiat engineers designed their own suspension tuning for the Spider and developed a sports car that is still true to the original Italian car.
Features & Options
The 2017 Fiat Lusso ($27,495), comes with an automatic gearbox and it’s lavishly equipped. It features handsome leather seats, 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, bright exhaust tips, automatic wipers, automatic climate control, and heated seats. It also came with the Technology package ($2,845). This includes keyless push-button entry, a rearview camera, an additional USB port, HD radio, and a 7-inch touchscreen.
Total MSRP as tested: $31,335 including destination.
As we stepped, or should I say, “fell” into the cockpit, we realized this convertible is not for large people. Once you are inside the cabin, you get comfortable with the tight surroundings. It sits low and you hug the road and feel an actual extension of the car.
That’s great for driving enthusiasts. And that’s who should buy this sports car.
The Fiat 124 Spider Lusso’s cockpit is distinguished by elegantly stitched Italian leather and there’s plenty of soft-touch materials throughout. There’s twin rollover hoops behind the seats, a carryover from the Miata. FCA engineers claim abundant room for taller passengers but we suspect six-footers could find themselves hitting their head, particularly with the top up. Furthermore, the 124 Spider’s cabin seems to be tighter on the passenger side.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The rear-wheel drive Fiat 124 Spider is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It develops 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on the Lusso model. EPA-estimated fuel economy comes in at 29 combined and 25/36 city/highway mpg with the automatic gearbox.
We put the top down on the 124 Spider with a quick and easy latch at the top of the windshield. The top manually folds down into the trunk and latches in about 7 seconds with one easy motion. We were surprised at how quiet the Spider is with the top down, even at highway speeds. We kept the windows up which made it easy to have a normal conversation without shouting.
With the top down, the cockpit is also fairly free of turbulence, even at 80-plus miles per hour when traveling on I-70 into the mountains. We traveled up to Georgetown for a fun ride on the Georgetown Railroad Loop. On the way up, the Fiat 124 Spider had plenty of power as the turbo kicked in to pull more air into the small engine.
This little sports car is reasonably smooth in the ride department, at least in the Lusso trim. The six-speed automatic is pleasant enough but lacked the true sports car feel. Shifting is smooth but just too leisurely. The manual function, achieved by moving the shift lever fore and aft, yields similar, unhurried responses. We think driving enthusiasts will prefer the available 6-speed manual gearbox as the automatic can be a bit boring.
For those wanting top-down fun in an affordable package, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is a good choice. The Lusso model brings an extra level of comfort to the table with its heated leather seats and extra technology options. If you are true driving enthusiast, you should opt for the standard gearbox.
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy