2017 Fiat 124 Spider new car reviews

It's here. Fiat's turbocharged cousin of Mazda's MX-5 has been long anticipated. We got to drive this 124 Spider Lusso around for a week and see how it stacks up to our 2016 Mazda MX-5. One note, though: Our test car was an automatic, not a manual that we would probably choose.

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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard
Director of Marketing & Digital Assets

This car showed up at our office after I went to the North American Fiat 124 Spider press launch, and, well, I was disappointed. After preaching for weeks about how much fun the new Fiat was, my coworkers were treated to what I'd call the least lively combination of options you can order on a Spider. They seemed less than impressed, but I stayed optimistic: Yes, the automatic ruins all the fun, and the Lusso trim adds features and weight, but I just kept thinking of the manual-equipped Abarth I'd driven. That's a worthy competitor to the MX-5 Club parked in our parking lot. This one? Well, it was also parked in our parking lot. That's about it.

This isn't a bad car, by any means. It's just not as good as a Fiat 124 Spider can be, and I'm excited for the Abarths to make their way into the press fleet. Then, everybody else will finally be able to sample a true Miata-beater.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

The Fiat 124 Spyder, as just about everyone knows by now, is the Fiat version of the MX-5. Big difference, though: turbo power.

A 124 Spyder Lusso fitted with the automatic gearbox just visited us for a week. Yes, it’s not the sportiest variant, but it was the first one to enter the Florida press fleet and Fiat put us first on the list to drive it. Thanks, Fiat, we do appreciate the gesture.

This car felt a lot like an MX-5. Big surprise, right? The turbo engine feels torquier than the MX-5’s non-turbo powerplant, but the automatic transmission found in our test car pretty much kills the experience. It’s a fine automatic, but it’s no twin-clutch. So while there’s more torque, there are also kind of slow shifts. You can manually shift the automatic box, and it will hold a gear until you tell it to shift. However, that shift is going to be a little laggy. Again, this isn’t a PDK.

The big question: MX-5 or Spyder? Style-wise I have flipped back and forth on this one. WhenI first saw the Fiat in the flesh at the New York auto show, I fell in love, especially in Abarth guise. I love how it carries forth some of the Fiat’s lines and details. The hood, especially, looks just right.

I took our test car to an informal Porsche Club of America get-together. Their reaction? The Fiat stole the show, and I parked near a new Cayman GT4.

Most everyone there got the Fiat—a modern interpretation on an old classic. The Fiat is also much smaller than anything currently offered by Porsche. Park the 124 Spyder beside a new 911, and the Fiat looks tiny. Now, though, I think I’m leaning towards the Mazda’s more chiseled lines. The MX-5 just looks a bit lighter and business-like. Driving-wise, until I sample a Fiat with the stick, I’m going to keep with the Mazda. This is not to slam the Fiat. If the MX-5 is a 10, then the 124 Spyder is like a 9.8. It’s right up there and a very welcome addition to our world.

Ed Higginbotham
Ed Higginbotham

I didn't have the luxury of enjoying a manual version of this car, so take my judgement with a grain of salt. The turbo lag did not match well with the automatic transmission and made the car feel extremely hesitant when pushed. I would imagine a manual transmission would solve many of those woes. It did handle well, as you would expect.

The interior was exactly the same as an MX-5, except with Fiat badges, which isn't a bad thing. One thing I did like was the trunk is actually bigger than an MX-5, and it was actually very noticeable as I crammed my fully loaded softball bag in the rear.

As for the looks, I really thought i'd like the Fiat's lines more once I saw it in real life. But to be honest, after looking at them side by side, the Fiat looks huge and blocky. I'd rather have the MX-5's new angry lines.

Bottom line, I'd choose the Mazda MX-5 over the Fiat 124 Spider. But hand me a 124 with a manual transmission and I just might change my tune.

Rick Goolsby
Rick Goolsby

The new Fiat 124 Spider has become one of my new favorite cars. I love the body style a lot. The interior is Mazda ND all the way. The drivetrain, at least engine is all Fiat. Having a turbocharged Fiat engine makes this car scoot. The ride and handling will be familiar to Mazda ND owners as well.

With all these great things about the new Fiat 124 Spyder, the question remains: Would you buy it over a Mazda ND? I would still choose the MX-5.

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View comments on the GRM forums
Jerry UltraDork
8/12/16 1:57 p.m.

I test drove an automatic myself this week, Fiat sent me a card offering $50 Amazon gift card to test out any '16 or '17 Fiat product. Of course I chose the 124 (because Alfa Romeo's weren't part of the offer).

After my Abarth for 2.5 years, this automatic left me...bored. It also had the extra luxury options, which also left me bored. They only had two automatics to choose from, so for $50 it was still a fun 20 minutes out of my life, and profitable. (Bring on the Abarth version and manual, I probably won't be so bored.)

92dxman SuperDork
8/15/16 1:00 p.m.

Is the $50 Amazon Gift Card test drive offer only for current Fiat Owners?

WildScotsRacing HalfDork
8/15/16 3:19 p.m.

The silver really works well with the body shapes. Best looking color for it that I've seen.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/15/16 3:45 p.m.
92dxman wrote: Is the $50 Amazon Gift Card test drive offer only for current Fiat Owners?

Nope. I got the offer in the mail after signing up for the Fiat updates online.

And BTW GRM, it's a 2017

Jerry UltraDork
8/16/16 6:29 a.m.

In reply to 92dxman:

I thought it was, but looks like Tanner proved me wrong.

9/23/16 8:46 p.m.

The 2016 ND and the 2017 124 interiors are slightly different. The 124 has a handle on the door while the ND doesn't have the handle. I learned about the handle at the 2016 Summer Camp when I rode in both around the track. It was nice to have something to hang onto in the 124!

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