What it is: The 124 Spider is Fiat’s re-entry into the compact convertible segment. Fiat sold the original 124 Spider in the United States from 1966-1975, so a replacement has been a long time coming. Fiat partnered with Mazda to help with the development and the manufacturing of the 124 Spider, and the new model is based largely on the new MX-5 Miata.
The biggest difference between the two is the engine. The 124 Spider gets Fiat’s 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder that comes in at 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque which is paired with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Fiat does charge an extra $1,350 for the automatic transmission.
For all intents and purposes, the mechanical differences with the MX-5 Miata end there. The 124 Spider does have completely different exterior styling though, while a few key components like the windshield and convertible top are shared.
Manufacturers working together to build cars like this should be championed and not chastised because cars like the 124 Spider would never exist due to the extremely high development cost of building a new car. And as you can imagine, Fiat isn’t planning on selling hundreds of thousands of small convertibles each year.
The driving experience of the 124 Spider is wonderful. The torque-heavy, turbocharged engine delivers lots of low-end power for carving corners and in a day of larger and larger vehicles, it is very refreshing to drive one that is focused on being light and nimble. There are three trims being offered: Classica, Lusso and Abarth. The “base” model Classica still offers a premium experience with 16-inch alloy wheels, beautiful paint options, and the same engine and transmission. The Lusso, my test model, for $2,500 more, adds 17-inch wheels, fog lamps, automatic headlights, keyless entry, leather-trimmed seats, a 7-inch infotainment display and a few more items.
The range-topping Abarth trim is $700 more than the Lusso and is more track-focused with the options from the factory. The six-speed automatic comes with paddle-shifters, a mechanical limited-slip differential and Bilstein suspension is added. Abarth-specific 17-inch gun metallic aluminum wheels are added as well. A slight, five horsepower bump is added, too.
MPG: 25 city/36 highway/29 combined
Price: $24,995 base price. $29,840 as-tested.
Upsides: Tons of fun at a great price point.
Downsides: Not very practical.
Wrap-up: I would expect most buyers of the 124 Spider to end up in the Lusso trim that I tested. I love that they offer a more basic model just under the $25,000 price point, but the Lusso, which prices at $29,840 with destination and an automatic transmission, will be a very popular option. While I haven’t driven the Abarth trim, I do own an Abarth trim Fiat 500 and the different suspension makes a huge difference in the car. If you are an enthusiast, then you will definitely want the Abarth trim. If I were to purchase a 124 Spider, I would choose the Abarth trim with Luxury Collection package ($3,995) that adds a nine-speaker Bose stereo, adaptive front LED headlights, parking assist, blind-spot detection and adds sport leather seats. That prices out at $33,185 and will give you the best overall 124 Spider for your money.