Roseville, Calif.- Thanks to a big assist from Mazda, the Fiat 124 Spider convertible is back and hoping to recapture some of its past glory.
If you’re a historical fan of the Spider, you probably recall that back in the 1960s the Italian auto manufacturer unveiled the 124 Spider roadster and it became a very popular choice among U.S. car buyers who were looking for something fun. They found it and the word spread. The Spider remains the top-selling Fiat ever in the U.S.
Three years ago, Fiat Chrysler and Mazda announced a joint venture to design a sports car that would essentially be shared as the Miata and the Fiat 124 Spider. The two convertibles share the same drive train, platform, have similar interiors, and are built in the same Mazda factory in Japan. The styling of the two roadsters is slightly different – the Spider is a little longer and heavier.
The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider weighs 100 pounds and is four inches longer than the Miata, which has always been a popular choice among car buyers who are seeking an affordable, fun convertible. The Spider can fill that bill as well, thanks to its peppy performance, great handling and approximately $26,000 sticker price.
2017 Fiat Spider convertible
* Performance: turbocharged 1.4-liter, four cylinder, 160 horsepower
* Mileage estimate: 26-35 mpg
* Price estimate: $26,000 to $29,200
* Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain: 4 years/50,000 miles; roadside assistance: 4 years/unlimited; corrosion: 12 years/unlimited
From a visual standpoint, the Spider is certainly appealing, replicating the look of the popular sports car of the 1960s and ’70s. Its good looks will have the neighbors a little jealous when it’s parked in your driveway. Although the Spider doesn’t become a convertible with the push of a button, one can easily drop or raise the soft-top with one hand in around 15 seconds or less.
The Spider is equipped with a turbocharged 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, providing more overall performance than the Miata. The six-speed manual transmission is standard and recommended if one wants to really get the full driving experience. But a six-speed automatic (with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the Abarth model) is optional on all three trims. The Spider has been clocked going 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds and gets an estimated 26-35 mpg.
Thanks to its low-to-the-ground position, the Spider provides excellent handling when encountering tight turns or twisting country roads. The extra weight helps give the Spider an edge in overall handling. Fiat engineers added sound-deadening material that makes the Spider noticeably quieter at highway speeds than most of its rivals, which includes the Miata, Mini Cooper convertible and powerful Nissan 370Z.
Much like the Miata, the Spider has a no-frills, simply-designed interior. You’re lucky to even get a cup holder! There are actually two cup holders, but one is located behind the driver’s right elbow, a terrible location that shouldn’t be attempted to reach while the car is moving. There is no center console, glove box or side-door storage areas – just one lone storage area behind the driver’s right arm. Trunk capacity is 4.6 cubic feet, so forget about storing your golf bag.
The cabin is smug, but seating is comfortable and head and leg room are not an issue for even 6-foot occupants. There’s no big learning curve with the Spider interface because it’s uncomplicated and intuitive.
The Fiat 124 Spider is a delight to drive and offers that fun factor convertible lovers desire. It delivers well in a lot of areas – price, performance, looks, and gas mileage.
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