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Fiat 124 and Mazda Miata: Better Cars Through Collaboration


For most people, the difference between the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider and the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata will be academic. Like Mars Chocolate knows about candy bars, the Fiat 124 and Miata (or ?Fiata,? if you prefer) may split hairs, but there are buyers for subtle differences: Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don?t.

And car buyers today should recognize that these two cars ? which cast nearly identical shadows ? keep alive great cars for tomorrow.

In certain automotive circles there?s a naughty, foul, evil, horrible phrase that we need to address here before continuing: badge engineering. That?s what happens when your $50,000 luxury car depreciates to a kitten?s whisker away from the econo-box it was based on. Cadillac buyers hate badge engineering. Dealers love it. Who do you think the final customer for manufacturers is anyway? (Hint: It?s not us.)

The good news is that the Fiata is not actually badge engineering. When the Fiat 124 Spider goes on sale next summer, the starting price should be within spitting distance of the Mazda?s $24,790, albeit for the slightly more potent engine and a few other styling cues. But the Fiat roadster will still hit budget droptop money well south of Mercedes and BMW?s offerings ? same as the Miata. Badge engineering is usually built on silly profit margins.

The two cars also will appeal to different buyers. The Miata is a budget tourer or frugal road-carving machine; the Fiat is a triumph of style over substance. The Fiat 124 Spider adds more than 5 inches of overall length beyond the Miata ? none of it is functional, it?s all for show ? and the Fiat?s 5 extra ponies aren?t as noticeable as the shouting exhaust.