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2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata vs. Fiat 124 Spider: Which Roadster is King?

Roadsters are a love letter to the automotive industry. There’s nothing like taking your two-seat convertible out of winter storage as soon as the last snow melts. Feeling the crisp spring breeze flow through your hair when you drop the top is incomparable. You just have to feel it for yourself. Drivers can experience this feeling at an affordable price, thanks to the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata and the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in the midst of a mid-life crisis to enjoy a roadster. These models are extremely fun to drive and surprisingly statistically safer than you’d think.

The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata and 2020 Fiat 124 Spider are two of the most identifiable entries in the segment. And some shoppers might do a double-take if they saw these two vehicles next to each other. The Miata and 124 Spider are nearly identical cars that are built upon a similar platform. This might lead many to believe that these models are practically the same. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

What separates the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata from the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider, and which one is the better roadster? Let’s take an in-depth look at what both these cars have to offer.

What we love about the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata

A blue 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata parked on display
The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata on display | Photo via Mazda

The recipe for creating a successful roadster is to manufacture a lightweight car and combine it with a sporty engine. The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata does just that, as it weighs only 2,341 pounds – nearly 100 pounds lighter than the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider.

This rear-wheel-drive car is one of the most agile vehicles on the market. You’ll be able to easily carve corners thanks to its responsive steering, and it has just enough power to give you an adrenaline rush.

Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the Miata generates 181 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. Meanwhile, the available six-speed automatic transmission is quite sporty as well, as it comes with shift paddles.

The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata isn’t just a performer. It’s quite a well-rounded vehicle. It comes standard with expected technologies, such as a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen display compatible with available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, it has a boatload of standard driver-assistance technologies, unlike the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider. These features include blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, and forward-collision warning. 

What we love about the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider

A silver 2020 Fiat Spider 124 parked on display
The 2020 Fiat Spider 124 Spider on display | Photo via Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

RELATED: 2019 Fiat 124 Spider: What’s New in the Classica, Lusso, and Abarth Models

It can be tough to stand out in a highly competitive segment. Unfortunately, the Fiat 124 Spider is often forgotten, as it lives in the shadow of the Mazda Miata. However, this is by no means a bad car. In fact, there’s a ton to love about it – from its Italian styling to its powerful engine.

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider delivers a bigger punch than the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Its standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine kicks out 160 hp in most models, and the top-of-the-line Abarth trim is tuned to produce 164 hp. This powerplant is mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission and utilizes a rear-wheel-drive system. Shoppers can opt for an available automatic transmission if they want a more hands-off experience, but we wouldn’t recommend doing so in such a driver-centric car.

While not quite as athletic as its Japanese counterpart, this Italian roadster delivers a silky smooth ride. Although, the Abarth does give the Miata a run for its money, as it’s outfitted with a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes, and Bilstein shock absorbers. Best of all, this top-tier trim level starts at a relatively low MSRP of $29,390.

Which roadster should you purchase?

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There’s no denying that the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata set the standard in its class by providing an elite driving experience. The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is no slouch itself. It’s quite the smooth performer, but it just can’t match the nimbleness of the Miata.

When it comes down to it, the 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata is also a more sensible purchase. According to the U.S. News & World Report, the Miata has a more favorable predicted reliability rating than the 124 Spider. Additionally, the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider lacks the standard driver-assistance systems offered by the Miata.