2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso
Class: Sporty/Performance Car
Miles driven: 280
Fuel used: 9.4 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 29.7 mpg
Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||C|
|Power and Performance||B+|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 26/35/30 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $27,495 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Customer Preferred Package 21 S ($1495; adds blind-spot and cross-path detection, rear park-assist system, heated exterior mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view and exterior mirrors, and universal garage-door opener)
Price as tested: $29,985
The great: Handling, shift feel, fuel economy
The good: Acceleration, easy-to-use manual convertible top
The not so good: Control layout, highway noise, interior and cargo storage space
As covered in our previous review of the base 124 Spider Classica, Fiat’s resurrected sports car differs from the Mazda MX-5 Miata on which it’s based both in appearance (every body panel is unique) and powerplant. In terms of the former, the 124 carries more “classic” sport-car lines that mimic those of its namesake from decades earlier, while the MX-5 wears swoopier sheetmetal that adheres to Mazda’s current styling direction. Note that only the Mazda, however, offers a model with a retractable targa roof, newly standard on its RF version.
Under the hood, the Fiat comes with the company’s turbocharged 1.4-liter four in place of the Mazda’s normally aspirated 2.0-liter, with the turbo boasting five more horsepower (nine more in the top-line Abarth) and 16 more lb. ft. of torque. Partially countering that is about 104 lb. greater curb weight (2436 vs. 2332). Do the math, and you’ll find that the MX-5 has a slightly better horsepower-to-weight ratio of 15.045 lb/hp vs. 15.22, but the 124 has an advantage in torque-to-weight ratio of 13.24 lb/lb.ft. vs 15.76.
Numbers aside, the driving experience is a bit different between the two cars. It’s clear that spurring the Fiat results in a bit more low-end grunt. But delivery of power is not quite as linear, and the little turbo can be caught flat-footed if you dip into the throttle at low engine speeds; for instance, it really doesn’t like rolling stop signs in 2nd gear.
Part of the 124’s weight gain is likely due to the car being 5.5 inches longer, most added behind the rear wheels. That results in a slightly larger trunk, with the Fiat offering 4.94 cu. ft. of space vs. the Mazda’s 4.59. That doesn’t sound like much, but it does work out to almost eight percent more capacity, which might come in handy on a weekend trip.
Compared to the base Classica, the mid-line Lusso tested adds $2500 in cost, but gives you heated leather seats, 17-inch wheels (vs. 16s), rain-sensing wipers, keyless access and starting, fog lights, automatic headlights, silver windshield and roll-bar trim, and bright exhaust tips in return. It also makes available some option packages not offered on the Classica, which can bring adaptive headlights with automatic leveling, heated auto-dimming outside mirrors, and auto-dimming inside mirror.
As with the Mazda MX-5, we really love the 124’s manually folding soft top, which (with a little strength and practice) can be raised or lowered while seated. We also like the overall driving sensation, which is as close to that of a traditional sports car as can be had at anywhere near this price.