Is the Fiat 124 Spider the Forgotten Miata?
The original Fiat 124 debuted in 1966 as a two-seat, rear-drive convertible with a simple-to-use convertible top. The brand reintroduced the model in 2016 as a joint venture with Mazda, which resulted in a mixed bag of Fiat and Mazda parts. The car is essentially a rebadged and reworked Mazda Miata, which isn’t a bad thing. But considering sales are on a decline, it seems that the Fiat 124 Spider is the Miata that everyone forgot about.
In case you’re wondering, the Fiat 124 Spider still exists. It’s not a bad car, in fact, we actually like its classy look that’s more Italian than it is Japanese. In designing the Fiat 124, the designers incorporated some details from the original Fiat 124, such as the headlights and some of the body lines, in order to keep with the Italian-inspired theme. There are three different trim levels currently available: Classica, Lusso, and Abarth.
Engine and powertrain
The exterior design elements aren’t the only parts that Fiat had a hand in. Under the hood lies a 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in the lower Classica and Lusso trims, while the Abarth trim level uses a more-powerful 164 hp engine taken straight from the Fiat 500 Abarth. For reference, the current Miata uses a SKYACTIV 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine.
The engines are mated to either a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic and routed through the rear wheels. A limited-slip differential is available when you opt for the top trim.
The interior is where the Miata and 124 universes complete sync up. The Fiat 124 has the same dashboard layout and 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system front and center and even the gauges and climate control knobs are the same. They basically just changed the Mazda badges to Fiat and called it a day. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Considering they share the same chassis, the Fiat 124 and the Miata have similar driving dynamics, but the suspensions are tuned differently. The Fiat 124 is better as a daily driver. According to Consumer Reports, “Like the Miata, the Fiat 124 Spider is nimble to drive, but its ride is a bit more comfortable—more cruiser, less go-kart—than the high-revving Miata’s.”
Enjoy it while you can
While we didn’t want to turn this into a complete Fiat 124/Mazda Miata comparison, it just didn’t feel right not pointing out the similarities considering they’re practically the same car. The main difference being the engines and ride characteristics.
However, as sales for the Miata hold strong, the Fiat 124 might not live to see another generation, let alone another model year. So if you like what you see, then we suggest picking up your own Fiat 124 Spider and be prepared to have mistaken for a lot of other cars (Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, etc.) aside from its Japanese spiritual cousin in which it’s based.