2017 Fiat 124 Spider: First Impressions

17Fiat_124-Spider_AS_SP_03.jpg 2017 Fiat 124 Spider; | photo by Steven Pham

There’s a problem with Fiat’s new roadster, the Mazda-based 124 Spider. And that problem is that the new MX-5 Miata was unveiled first. Taken on its own the new 124 Spider isn’t a bad-looking car — it’s got good proportions, and from the right angle (the forward three-quarters) you can see parallels with the original roadster from the 1960s. But when parked next to a Miata, which is a flawless example of automotive styling, the 124 Spider just looks wrong.

More 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

The big eyes don’t help. Those three-element LED ring-style running lights set into scalloped openings are meant to harken back to the Pininfarina-designed “baby Ferrari” look of the original, but they look a little cartoonish and forced. Compared to the low-slung look of the Miata (and yes, there’s just no way around continuing to compare this car with the Miata), it looks wrong.

17Fiat_124-Spider_AS_SP_05.jpg 2017 Fiat 124 Spider; | photo by Steven Pham

The squared-off rear end looks too high and too blocky. It has the feel of a little-known aftermarket tuner modifying a perfectly good Miata with an ill-conceived body kit. Fiat has tried very hard to make it look Fiat-like, and despite there not being a single body panel shared with the Miata, the similarities are still apparent.

17Fiat_124-Spider_AS_SP_16.jpg 2017 Fiat 124 Spider; | photo by Steven Pham

Peek inside, and you’re greeted with straight-up Mazda Miata interior bits, right down to the multimedia controller between the seats. It’s understandably expensive to do a unique dashboard for such a low-volume vehicle, but the Mazda interior is so distinctive that it’s impossible to hide the vehicle’s origins with some additional leatherette wrapping. Thankfully, it’s a good interior already, so nobody can fault Fiat for quality or design. But again, it just does not feel Italian in there.

17Fiat_124-Spider_AS_SP_18.jpg 2017 Fiat 124 Spider; | photo by Steven Pham

Hopefully, the driving experience will be enough to differentiate the Fiat 124 Spider from the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Replacing the Mazda engine with a Fiat engine (the awesomely snorty 1.4-liter turbo found under the hood of the 500 Abarth), special gearing on the transmission and a unique dual exhaust, the 124 Spider should certainly sound and feel like a proper Italian roadster. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t actually look like one.

Latest expert reviews