Fifty years ago, Fiat introduced the first 124 Spider. Today, at the LA Auto Show, the brand showed a brand-new droptop meant to revive the nameplate with gusto. (And, if the turbocharger is an indication, with haste, too). World, meet the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider, a car whose proportions might seem particularly familiar. Spoiler alert: It’s a Mazda.
For months, it has been an open secret that the new Fiat convertible would be no more, and no less, than an Italian treatment of everyone’s favorite accessible sports car, the Miata. But remember: a re-badge is only objectionable when the starter car is a dud. In the 124 Spider, an excellent Mazda has simply been made into a shapely Fiat, whose reliability might finally take the air out of the “Fix It again, Tony” contingent.
Outside, the lines similar to Mazda’s convertible, changes mostly manifest in the lights and trim. Where the Miata wears a smirk and heavily-hooded eyes, the 124 sports a friendlier face, with headlamps that recall the egg-shaped units on the original. Around back, conversely, Fiat traded round taillights for rectangles. The grill gains some edges and becomes hexagonal, and the hood bulked up, earning two power domes, which it deserves.
Because, underneath, there’s a 160-hp version of Fiat’s 1.4-liter Multiair turbo, plucked from the deeply flavorful 500 Abarth. That’s only a five horsepower gain over the Miata’s 2-liter, naturally-aspirated lump. But the real payoff comes in torque, which is up 36 foot-pounds and, we hope, offers the same blatty, spitty, generally outrageous exhaust note of the Abarth. And fear not, friends, there is a six-speed manual available.
Our thoughts? The Fiat is actually a touch less pretty than the Mazda, though its look is the more mature of the two. The engine is bound to be a blast, but then roadsters at this echelon aren’t really about speed, but finesse. Because of the nature of car fans and The Internet, there’s likely to be a tiff between Mazda people, whom the Fiatosi will call boy-racers, and Fiat people, whom the Zoom-Zoomers will label euro-snobs. Connotations aside, every forum will feast on comparative numbers, lap times et al, and feverishly declare a winner.
How silly. The Fiat 124 Spider is convertible. If you like the Fiat, the Fiat is better—objectivity has no place in a passion purchase. Numbers are for the office and the 124 Spider is definitively for the road.
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