We spent the week with a Grigio Argento Aluminum 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, known to many simply as the Fiata. As you may know, the 124 Spider is heavily based on the current ND Mazda Miata. In fact, both cars are built side-by-side in Hiroshima, Japan. The Miata has been a staff favorite for years, so we were interested to see how Fiat would handle the changes.
While there are a lot of shared components between the two models like styling and suspension tuning, the biggest changes are under the hood. Fiat swapped the Miata’s 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline-four for a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four. In Abarth trim, the 124 Spider makes 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, slightly more than the Miata (though that’s offset by a bit of extra weight).
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this car. The current Miata is nearly flawless when it comes to driving dynamics, so I was afraid Fiat’s alterations would undermine what is a fundamentally good vehicle. My fears were almost immediately put to rest. While I’m still not sure I would buy one over a Miata, I can totally recommend it to less performance-minded friends.
The suspension is less firm and provides less body roll than the Miata, the latter one of my chief complaints about the Mazda. The transmission isn’t as slick as the newer one in the Miata, but the turbo engine it’s mated to provides plenty of character. The extra torque provides plenty of kick off the line thanks to minimal turbo lag. On paper, it’s really no quicker, but around town it feels like it has a bit more grunt. In a canyon or on a track, I think I would still prefer the Miata.
The 124 Spider’s looks have grown on me a lot since the reveal in 2015. Honestly, I really didn’t like it at first, maybe because I was so in love with the Miata’s design. Taken on its own, the 124 Spider really is a pretty thing, with plenty of touches that harken back to the old model. Most important for me, they fixed the terrible, terrible seats in the Miata with new padding and covers.