2017 Fiat 124 Spider Review, I miss Manual Transmission

Thursday, January 18th, 2018 - Fiat

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Review – That fleeting thing called life isn’t always fair. Vacation time goes unused, in-laws can be a pain, fun cars often cost a fortune. But, a Ferrari isn’t needed for a good romp on the road. The New 2017 Fiat 124 Spider is back and even Italian.

The worlds worst kept secret? The 124 Spider 2017 is largely based on this car, Mazda’s MX-5 Miata, even built in the same Japanese plant. Hardly a bad thing. There are differences, obviously the sheet metal. With a nod to nostalgia, designers used classic cues from original model that stopped coming to our shores over three decades ago. Blame modern safety regulations for the chunkier look.

The wind and the sun can be yours for as little as 26 grand, this upmarket Lusso model goes for $29,990. The 2017 124 is some five inches longer and 100 pounds heaver than MX-5.


All this is identical to the Mazda’s, with added insulation here and a laminated windshield to keep the din down. A reminder of the Fiat-Chrysler hook-up too. It’s crazy simply to drop and just as easy to raise. Even for a guy with rotator cuff problems.

The New 124 Spider gets a heart transplant. Shipped from Italy, this 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine provides the back wheels with 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque and less character than it’s Japanese cousin.

The six-speed manual comes from the previous generation Miata, still terrific. I’m driving the six-speed autobox. You must move up to the Abarth model to get paddle shifters. The turbo takes just a second to build power but in the middle of the rev range there’s a nice meaty power band.

Rowing a manual gearbox would give a driver, at least the illusion of directly keeping the engine in its sweet spot. I feel less engaged with the shifts done for me. Let’s get something straight, I’m not the kind of guy that insists that you must get a manual transmission in a car like this.

The automatic here works pretty well, it’s always in the right gear. But I’ve got to admit, I really miss the manual. I really do. The chassis structure comes from Mazda but the Fiat has unique springs, dampers, and anti-roll bars for a smidge more compliance but less body roll. Retuned steering too. Everyone’s going to compare the handling of this car to the Miata, you kind of have to.

The Fiat is still fun and frisky in the corners but a little but more comfortable, a little less caffeinated. This is fun in the corners, you can actually feel the tail kick out a little bit. Buyers will simply have to test drive both to see which dynamic they prefer.

The extra sound insulation and milder exhaust note adds to a smoother vibe for the Italian. The Abarth model offers more growl. Okay, I’m doing 50 miles an hour. As you can tell from my Dennis the Menace hair, wind management is pretty good.

Fiat 124 Spider Fuel economy

Fuel economy? The EPA average for both Fiat Spider 124 and MX-5 using premium fuel is 30 miles per gallon except for the Fiat’s automatic that drops to 29 mpg. Shouldn’t be a deal breaker. I’m still missing that manual transmission.

I’m kind of bored. This? It’s just not the same. The cabin looks awfully familiar, with an instrument panel that’s nearly identical to you-know-what with some nicer materials here and there. That means the user interface can be operated from here and here.

The wheel doesn’t telescope either. Seats have Mazda’s comfy frame system that’s similar to an Aeron office chair, there’s heated leather here. The side panels? That’s the big difference here. There’s an additional third of a cubic foot of cargo room in the Fiat.

A suitcase this size and a small overnight bag will fit. Great for a weekend. Taken a step further, it’s great for a new outlook on life, the perfect way to unwind, perhaps when the in-laws stress you out.

For those wondering about choosing between 2017 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata, well, there is no “better” here, just two similar but different ways to get the wind in your hair and sun on your shoulders. Glad to see the world has another affordable roadster choice. Okay, I got through that one without getting clever with the word ‘Fiata’, which is not so clever, since it’s been over used.

While this is the only moment I recorded, the Fiat got a lot of attention, a surprising amount actually. It definitely put a smile on people’s faces.

According to Fiat, nearly 8,000 Fiat 124 Spider are still registered in the U.S. Sales began in 1968. This one is in my neighborhood. I had a chance to buy a used one back in 1986 when a co-worker was moving out of state. I ultimately passed because of the quality reputation back then.

Another co-worker bought it and said it was the most fun, and reliable car he had ever owned. Go figure… There you go gang that’s my take on the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. Really good to see another affordable roadster on the market, the Miata had the segment to itself for far too long. Good to have an alternative. Even though it’s much the same.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Review, I miss Manual Transmission Pictures

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