At Kelley Blue Book we?re tracking Fiat sales down almost 10 percent in 2015, despite overall market growth approaching 6 percent. The introduction of a two-seat sports car, based on Mazda?s Miata, may not fix this problem, but it will give Fiat its first U.S.-sold sports car in decades. I was honestly a bit disappointed to see the styling similarities between the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda?s 2016 MX-5 Miata. But looking past the exterior similarities reveals several 124 Spider-specific features that should give it a distinguished Italian flavor. Bob Broderdorf, director of Fiat Brand North America, acknowledged the Mazda partnership, but said ?It?s not enough to call it a Spider, slap a 124 badge on it and call it a day.?
The most promising Spider distinction is its turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir engine with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine serves as the driving force within Fiat?s 500 Abarth, one of the most engaging front-wheel-drive car?s ever created. In a rear-drive convertible with Miata-based dynamics? I predict it?s going to be a rockstar on twisty roads. In addition, classic styling cues remain intact, with a back-end treatment reminiscent of a Corvette, front end cues from classic 1960s Ferraris, and a rear kick-up line that maintains the Spider?s traditional proportions.
Aside from touting the largest trunk capacity in its category other distinctions include a dashboard, door panels and seats unique to the 124. The soft-touch dash, leather steering wheel and shift knobs, plus a manual soft top that can be raised or lowered in less than 5 seconds (like the Miata), offer the best of classic motoring and modern engineering. And, while the driver may enjoy the acoustically tuned exhaust note, road rumble doesn?t add to driving fun. Several measures were taken to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), including insulation materials, dedicated engine mounts, an acoustic front windshield and best-in-class torsional stiffness.
The 124 Spider will be available in two options, Classica and Lusso, offered at different price points. Exact pricing has yet to be announced, but its Miata platform mate starts at $25,000. The 124 will go on sale this summer at Fiat?s 208 U.S. dealers. To commemorate its 50th anniversary the automaker is offering a 124 Spider Prima Edition in Azzurro Italia (dynamic blue mica). There will only be 124 models released in this special blue paint, providing a sense of exclusivity for owners in a shade not likely to be repeated.