2017 Fiat 124 Spider
by John Davis
Fiat made its automotive return to the U.S. in 2011 with the small but spirited 500 subcompact lineup. But, for those of us that have been around for more than a few decades, it was likely the 1960s era 124 Coupe and Spider sports cars that initially drew our attention to the Italian brand. Now, after more than thirty years, the two-seat 124 Spider is also back - for the 2017 model year - and it is more enticing than ever.
This is the part of the article where we feel obligated to tell readers that this 124 is actually built on the same chassis as the Mazda MX-5, and further, comes out of the same Japanese plant. But, this is far from a story about international badge engineering. They really do look a lot different, at least outside, especially when parked next to each other. Where the MX-5 has gotten bolder looking over the years, the 124 looks classy; with a nicely modern update of 60’s Italian-style.
The 124 Spider certainly has a sporty character; but instead of begging you to seek apexes, it yearns for mountain passes, and a more relaxed Grand Touring pace. In that way it is very reminiscent of the first Miata. The engine is another clear departure. In place of the Miata’s naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter is the same 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo-4 found in other current Fiats, including the raucous 500 Abarth. Here it spins up 160–horsepower with an exhaust note that adds even more Italian flair.
But, while unique outside and under the hood, the interior of the new 124 Spider is another story. It’s almost a direct copy of the MX-5, including dash-top infotainment screen that responds to touch and a console-mounted controller. On the other hand, the 124’s gauge package looks great, and the steering wheel placement is just about perfect. There’s still no dash-mounted glovebox, but rather a storage bin in between the seats.
You do get an outside trunk release, and with 5 1/2 inches more length, there’s also a bit more room in the 124’s trunk than in the MX-5’s. The 124’s top remains a simple one-handed affair and we love it.
For our complete test of the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3602 that begins airing on September 17, 2016. For a complete listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network. So overall, if you like the MX-5, you’ll like the 124. It will certainly attract fans of the original 124 as well. We’re ecstatic that Fiat and Mazda got together and made both a new MX-5 and a reborn 124 Spider possible. It’s a partnership that everyone who loves to drive can celebrate.