Improving upon the MX-5 Miata is a nearly impossible task, one best undertaken by Mazda itself. That’s why Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), in partnering with Mazda to develop the new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider, elected to infuse the car with Italian style and spirit rather than try to make one of the world’s great automobiles any better.
Starting with the redesigned Miata, FCA removed the Mazda-penned bodywork in favor of Turin-sourced styling. The cars share windshields, fabric tops, side mirrors, and glass but are otherwise different on the outside. Naturally, Fiat drew heavily on 124 Spider heritage, especially in the front styling, and particularly for the car’s twin “power dome” hood design.
Longer and wider than the Miata, the 124 Spider boasts slightly more trunk space at 4.9 cu.-ft. instead of 4.6 cu.-ft. but you’ll still need to pack light. And use soft luggage. Perhaps from Bottega Veneta.
Inside, the quickly coined (by the media) “Fiata’s” bloodlines are more apparent. A glance provokes the theme of a Japanese roadster wrapped in a fine Italian suit, though FCA does make a handful of changes in addition to swapping out the Miata’s winged Mazda steering wheel logo for a bright red Fiat emblem. Instrumentation, leather stitching, and door panel trim are unique to the 124 Spider, and the Miata’s Mazda Connect infotainment technology is re-branded Fiat Connect.
Otherwise, the 124 Spider’s interior is just like the MX-5 Miata, right down to its minimalistic storage, handy smartphone holder, available Bose premium sound system with headrest speakers, and silly detachable cup holders. You can even access Facebook and Twitter feeds using Fiat Connect’s 7-inch touchscreen display, though why you’d want to do that in a car like this is beyond comprehension.
Aside from the exterior styling, the 124 Spider’s most significant departure from the MX-5 Miata resides beneath the hood. Gone is Mazda’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, replaced by the turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder powerplant used in the Fiat 500 Abarth. Sourced from Termoli, Italy, the force-fed motor is installed on the Mazda assembly line in Hiroshima, Japan.
More powerful than the Miata’s engine, the 124 Spider’s source of force cranks out 160 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 184 lb.-ft. of torque at 2500 rpm. Compare those figures to Mazda’s SkyActiv 2.0-liter engine, which whips up 155 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. of torque at 4600 rpm. Given that the 124 Spider weighs just 104 pounds more than the MX-5 Miata, the Fiat should prove quite lively indeed.
Two versions of the new 124 Spider are available: Classica and Lusso. The Classica comes with a 6-speed manual gearbox and 16-inch aluminum wheels, while the Lusso is equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission and 17-inch alloys. The automatic is an option for the Classica model, along with a Technology Collection option package that installs Fiat Connect, a reversing camera, and a passive keyless entry system.
Upgrading to the 124 Spider Lusso supplies the contents of the Technology Collection, plus automatic headlights, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, chrome exhaust outlets, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped heated seats, and nicer interior trim. A Comfort and Safety Collection adds heated side mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors, a programmable garage door opener, rear parking sensors, and a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. These same features are included in the Lusso’s Premium Collection, along with adaptive LED headlights, LED running lights, a Bose premium sound system, a navigation system, and more.
Fiat plans to roll the new 124 Spider into showrooms in time for the summer 2016 driving season. The first 124 examples will be called the Prima Edizione, featuring Lusso trim and dipped in exclusive Azzurro Italia paint. Other versions of the car will be offered in seven colors and a choice between black and tan interiors.
Rumors are also swirling that a more powerful and performance-tuned Abarth edition might be in the works. Should such speculation prove true, Fiat might successfully demonstrate that it’s not just Mazda that can improve upon a Miata.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2017 Fiat 124 Spider page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Image Credit: ©2016 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles