With turbo, 2-seater fun, Fiat 124 Spider delivers smiles

SHARE With turbo, 2-seater fun, Fiat 124 Spider delivers smiles

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider increases the automaker’s lineup by adding a two-seat roadster available in several trim levels. I recently tested a the Fiat 124 Spider Lusso.

When you buy a car like the 124 Spider, you do it for looks and fun – not practicality. The 124 and Miata use the same platform with the same wheelbase, but in looking at them you’d never know it. The 124 looks bigger, wider and longer than its cousin because – it is all of those things.

Upfront the look borrows from the last Spider that graced our shores back in 1985. The Fiat’s nose features large round headlamps and a long hood with dished creases. Viewing the profile, you will see the very high nose and a distinct body line that rolls back from the front wheels and whips up over the door handle, which nicely integrates with the top of the short rear fenders.

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Under that high hood line, you find a Fiat-Chrysler turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, with 184 pound-feet of torque. My test car came with a 6-speed manual, but a 6-speed automatic is available. I liked this manual, which featured short throws, great engagement and it allowed me to wring as much low-end grunt as I wanted out of the small 4-cylinder.

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The cabin is very cozy and looks very Miata-like. You will note that while the look is similar, the materials used are better quality, with a big reduction in plastic pieces in the 124. My test car came with the Miata infotainment system, 7.1-inch display, integrated voice Command w/Bluetooth, typical power features, air, and backup camera.

Just like Miata its close quarters, and there is minimal storage. The heated leather seats are supportive, and very close to the floor pan. I did not like the flimsy, movable cup holder stalks that intrude on passenger space and don’t hold more than a can or small fast food cup.

The acoustic headliner roof is lightweight, requiring only the twist of a central lock and a one-hand close operation from the driver’s seat. It snaps down flush with the interior and rear sheetmetal. Closing is a simple switch, pull up and twist a header latch. Either motion is done in seconds.

On the road, the 124 Spider does retain some of the Miata’s fun-to-drive characteristics. The engine could use more power and, while the turbo boosts power, there is still some small turbo lag. The Spider weighs in under 2,500 pounds.

The fun began with an aggressive drive through the countryside. With the top down and rowing through the gears the Spider displays some great ride and handling. Fling the 124 into a corner and the body hangs out a little but quickly snaps back. As the 124 is a rear-wheel-drive car, you can hang the tail out and pivot the car with some throttle, responsive steering and the suspension tune. All the components combined produce a very satisfying drive experience for the base price of $27,515, my tester landed at $28,985.

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