Friday, May 19, 2017

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Roadster: Reviving An Italian Icon

Highlight: The Fiat 124 Spider shares a platform with the Mazda Miata MX-5.

Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $33,635 (base model $25,990)

Seating Capacity: 2

Standard Safety Features: airbags; ABS; daytime running headlamps; electronic stability control; a keyless entry system; and a tire service kit

Standard Equipment (Classica Model): 16-inch wheels; a manual operated transmission; convertible roof with acoustic headliner; a manually operated top; a push button ignition starter system; manual operated front seats; premium cloth seats; a remote keyless entry system; a leather wrapped steering wheel; and a tilt steering wheel

Standard Equipment (Lasso Model): 17-inch wheels; performance tires; a/c with automatic temperature control; automatic headlights; front fog lights; heated front seats; a back up camera; rain sensitive windshield wiper; remote proximity keyless entry; Pandora, AHA and Stitcher apps; integrated voice command with Bluetooth; a dual bright exhaust system; leather trimmed seats; and rollbar cover premium silver

Options: a 6-speed automatic transmission; 9-speaker Bose system; a one-year subscription to SiriusXM; a blindspot and crosspatch detection system; parking sensors (front and rear); GPS navigation; LED  headlamps; adaptive front cornering headlights; headlamp washer; LED daytime running lights; automatic dimming exterior mirrors; automatic dimming exterior rear view mirrors; and a leather wrapped shift knob

Other Trim Level:


Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 4-speaker AM/FM audio system

Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

USB Connectivity: Available

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder/160-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular

Standard Fuel Mileage: 25-city/36-hwy

What’s New: The compact roadster is all-new to the Fiat portfolio for 2017.

Why: Like its twin, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Fiat’s rear wheel drive compact roadster is powered by one powertrain, which can be controlled by a manual or an automatic transmission. 

One must note, this new Fiat isn't some rebadged Mazda. There are a number of differences. in fact, the Fiat offers a longer bumper-to-bumper 1-year warranty. Secondly, Fiat offers a tricked-out version of the roadster known as the Barth edition.

Moreover, the 124 Spider is just a hair longer and wider, too. And, the 124 Spider spews out more horsepower and torque, too. Furthermore, unlike its twin from Mazda,which is outfitted with a dual overhead cam, Fiat's engineering team installed a single overhead cam engine in their Italian inspired roadster. The Fiat also wears a different grille and taillights.  Yes, Fiat’s design and engineering team has taken every measure possible to distinguish the roadster from its sibling, Mazda, while evoking the feelings of yesteryear from the original Italian designed 124 Spider.

Oh yes, and unlike the original 124 Spider, today’s version is available with a much needed back up camera, electronic lane changer sensors, a crystal clear high-end audio system and a manual top that can be operated with one hand.

Lastly, the 124 Spider has a specially tuned front double wishbone suspension system and a rear multi-link suspension, which is great for hugging winding curves or the open road. This fine-tuned suspension system just adds to the fun factor, when tooling around in this classic compact roadster.

But: It’s a tiny roadster, so space is limited for both humans and cargo. This is truly a vehicle for minimalist. And while Fiat’s design and engineering team has made great strides to distinguish the exterior of the vehicle from its Mazda twin, the interior is pure Mazda through and through.

Furthermore, the automatic transmission in our test vehicle didn’t seem to shift as immediately as we would have expected. No, it wasn’t jerky; but, it was somewhat slow to respond. Nevertheless, when we’ve gotten the keys to its twin, the Miata MX-5, we’ve always had complete control, while effortlessly working through each of the six gears with our manually controlled transmission.

Verdict: The team at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has managed to revive an Italian icon, while repacking it in a Japanese built body, removing everything outside of the vehicle that screams Mazda. Yes, the folks from Fiat have personalized the vehicle. They have managed to do all of this and more by making the vehicle slightly longer and enhancing the warranty, while literally holding the price down within a $200 reach of the Mazda.

The 124 Spider now becomes the second open air vehicle to join Fiat’s line up. Hmm, will a retractable hardtop like Miata’s limited edition Miata RF make its way in the line up? We’ll have to wait and see!

Competition: Mazda Miata MX-5

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