2017 FIAT 124 Spider

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Key Specs

of the 2017 FIAT 124 Spider. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Engine has plenty of torque
  • Comfortable enough to drive daily
  • Quick shift action with a forgiving clutch
  • Abarth has sharp handling
  • Top is easy to operate

The Bad

  • Infotainment system is cumbersome
  • Cabin ergonomics aren't great
  • Lots of wind/road noise
  • Tough for taller drivers to fit comfortably
  • Very little trunk space

Notable Features of the 2017 FIAT 124 Spider

  • Turbocharged four-cylinder engine
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Manually operated soft-top
  • Shares a wheelbase with the Mazda MX-5 Miata
  • Performance-oriented Abarth version

2017 FIAT 124 Spider Road Test

Brian Wong

The verdict: The 124 Spider excels as a touring roadster, with a smooth manual transmission and a turbocharged engine that provides plenty of passing and climbing power. And when the road gets curvy, the 124 remains a willing and able dance partner.

Against the competition: The 124 Spider has only one true convertible competitor, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and the two are evenly matched both on price and on the spec sheet. The Miata is the sharper of the two, but the 124 Spider is a better all-around vehicle and my choice for a daily driver.

Small, affordable, rear-wheel-drive roadsters are an endangered species; the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been the only remaining candidate for the past several years. So Fiat’s betting there’s room for one more contender, resurrecting the 124 Spider nameplate that hasn’t been seen in the United States since the 1980s.

Interestingly the 124 Spider is very much based on the Miata. It uses the same chassis, many of the same interior parts and even the same key fob as the Mazda. As Fiat loves to point out, though, there are a few differences that make driving each one a unique experience. It gave the 124 Spider different tuning for its steering and suspension, and there’s a different engine under the hood: a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder borrowed from the 500 Abarth. Compare the two convertibles here.

The 124 Spider is offered in three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and the performance-oriented Abarth. I drove a Classic...

The verdict: The 124 Spider excels as a touring roadster, with a smooth manual transmission and a turbocharged engine that provides plenty of passing and climbing power. And when the road gets curvy, the 124 remains a willing and able dance partner.

Against the competition: The 124 Spider has only one true convertible competitor, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and the two are evenly matched both on price and on the spec sheet. The Miata is the sharper of the two, but the 124 Spider is a better all-around vehicle and my choice for a daily driver.

Small, affordable, rear-wheel-drive roadsters are an endangered species; the Mazda MX-5 Miata has been the only remaining candidate for the past several years. So Fiat’s betting there’s room for one more contender, resurrecting the 124 Spider nameplate that hasn’t been seen in the United States since the 1980s.

Interestingly the 124 Spider is very much based on the Miata. It uses the same chassis, many of the same interior parts and even the same key fob as the Mazda. As Fiat loves to point out, though, there are a few differences that make driving each one a unique experience. It gave the 124 Spider different tuning for its steering and suspension, and there’s a different engine under the hood: a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-cylinder borrowed from the 500 Abarth. Compare the two convertibles here.

The 124 Spider is offered in three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and the performance-oriented Abarth. I drove a Classica with Fiat’s Technology Package on the road and an Abarth in its natural setting: an autocross course.

Exterior & Styling

Put the two competitors side by side and the differences are obvious. The 124 Spider is longer and leaner than the Mazda, with 3 inches added to the front overhang and 2 inches to the rear. This gives the Spider more classic styling than the Miata, which has a more modern, angular look.


Ringed daytime running lights and LED taillights are standard on the Fiat. Classica models have 16-inch alloy wheels, while the Lusso and Abarth get 17-inch alloys. Lusso and Abarth models also add fog lights and automatic headlights. At launch, a manually operated soft-top was the only roof available for all three trims.

The Abarth is a different beast entirely. It’s distinguished from the other two trim levels by a gunmetal matte hood and deck lid, as well as large scorpion Abarth badges both fore and aft.

How It Drives
Under the hood is an engine that will be familiar to Fiat fans. The 1.4-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder is taken from the 500 Abarth and makes 160 horsepower and (more importantly) 184 pounds-feet of torque. Transmission options include a standard six-speed manual or an available six-speed automatic, a $1,350 option.

The Classica model I tested had the manual and it’s a good one, with short throws and a clutch that skews a bit more to the forgiving side than the Miata. I didn’t have a chance to drive the automatic.

Fiat gave the 124 Spider unique suspension and steering tuning, and the setup aims more for comfort, with a bit more body roll and slightly less feedback from the wheel. This removes a lot of the harshness of the Miata’s setup and makes the 124 Spider more livable as an everyday driver. The difference gives the Miata an advantage in the twists but, on any other type of road, I’d prefer the Spider. That’s not to say that the 124 Spider is a slouch when the road gets bendy; it’s still a very good car with great balance.

For me, the highlight of the driving experience was found under the hood. The Spider’s engine fits it like a glove, with the turbocharger giving it a big torque advantage over the Miata (enough to offset the added 100 or so pounds of curb weight). Peak torque happens earlier, at only 2,500 rpm versus 4,600 rpm in the Miata, so it’s much easier to keep the 124 Spider in its power band. And when the road got hilly, the 124 Spider pulled hard even on an incline.

While I didn’t drive it on the street, I did get to sling a 124 Spider Abarth around an autocross course, where it exceled. It has numerous mechanical upgrades, including a rear limited-slip differential, upgraded shocks and sharper tuning for the steering and suspension. Its engine also makes four more horsepower. Brembo brakes are available, as is a Mopar exhaust system with a blow-off valve that makes the exhaust sound even gruffer.

On the autocross course, climbing into the Abarth made me feel a bit like Goldilocks: I found the best of both worlds inside. The Abarth has the more robust engine of the 124 Spider along with the sharpness of the Miata’s handling and suspension. I can’t wait to get one out on the street for a longer drive.

The 124 Spider will run on regular fuel, but premium is recommended. The EPA estimates it will get 26/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined with a manual transmission and 25/36/29 mpg with an automatic.

Interior
Inside, the 124 Spider’s interior is essentially identical to the Miata’s, which means it inherits many of the same quirks. The biggest difference is that the plastic, body-colored trim piece atop both doors in the Miata has been replaced in the Fiat with a black trim piece that matches the rest of the cabin.

Ergonomically, there are some issues. For models equipped with the touch-screen and multimedia system, the controller knob sits directly in the path of your arm when shifting, so you can bump it pretty easily when moving between gears. There’s not a lot of room with the top up, so taller drivers and passengers may find the space pretty cramped.

This being a soft-top convertible, road and wind noise are ever-present in the cabin. Rear visibility is slightly compromised with the top up but (predictably) excellent with the top down.

Ergonomics & Electronics
Classica models come with standard Bluetooth connectivity and a 3-inch display, but our test vehicle had an optional technology package, which adds a 7-inch touch-screen, backup camera and remote proximity keyless entry for $1,295 (all those features are standard on the Lusso and Abarth).

The 124 Spider uses the same multimedia system as the Mazda; just the splash screen showing the company logo has changed. Most inputs are made using a circular control knob between the two seats. The touch-screen won’t allow inputs while the car is in motion, as a safety precaution.

The system isn’t one of my preferred setups; the menus aren’t very intuitive, and even when you learn the location of different functions, it takes many button presses to perform simple tasks. If Fiat had been able to put in the Uconnect system that’s found in many Fiat Chrysler Automobiles products, it would have been a large improvement. Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto is offered on the 124 Spider.

Cargo & Storage
Fiat likes to claim the 124 Spider has “class-leading” cargo room because it has 4.9 cubic feet and the Miata has 4.6 cubic feet. Practically, there’s not much difference between the two. You won’t fit much beyond a small suitcase or some groceries in the trunk of either one.

There isn’t much storage to be found inside the cabin, either. There is no glove box, just a small compartment between the two seats that also stores the removable cupholders. There’s another small compartment in the center tunnel, beneath the arm rest, and a small tray in front of the shift knob that can fit half a smartphone.

Safety
The Classica model I tested came with a backup camera as part of the technology package, but otherwise there aren’t many safety features to speak of. Blind spot monitoring with rear-cross path detection is available on Lusso and Abarth models. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a forward collision warning system or automatic braking.

See a full list of the 124 Spider’s safety features here.

Crash-test results for the 124 Spider weren’t available as of this writing.

Value in Its Class
When the model was announced, many worried the 124 Spider would be more expensive than its rival, but the two have very similar price structures.

The Classica model starts at $25,990, including a $995 destination charge. Lusso models add heated leather seats, rain-sensing wipers and a dual-tip chrome exhaust for $28,490. Rounding things out is the Abarth, which gets numerous styling and mechanical upgrades and goes for $29,190.

For comparison, the Miata starts at slightly less: $25,570 for a Sport model. The Club, which is comparable to the Abarth, goes for $29,435. Topping things off is the Grand Touring at $31,200, which gets a few more standard features, including navigation, blind spot warning and a Bose audio system (all of which are optional on the Lusso).

With the two cars so near each other in price, the deciding factor really becomes what driving experience you prefer. The Miata is the sharper of the two, but that sharpness might be too much to live with on a daily commute. The 124 Spider is a bit softer in the bends, but its engine, more-comfortable suspension and easier clutch action will appeal to many. You can’t go wrong with either roadster; both are stylish and great to drive. It’s nice to finally have choices in this segment again.

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2017 124 Spider Video

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth gets a slew of upgrades over the other trim levels, including a rear limited-slip differential, sportier suspension, and optional Brembo brakes.

Latest 2017 124 Spider Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.4)
Interior Design
(4.6)
Comfort
(4.3)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Head turning style

by Alex C aka The Melody Man Music.com from Canton, Ga on August 28, 2018

This car is fun to drive and I have all the options. The 9 speaker Bose radio in such a small cabins space is remarkable. Wherever I go, people ask me what is the make of the car. I even had a teenage ... Read full review

(5.0)

What is an Abarth?

by WindyHill California from Los Angeles on August 19, 2018

No one known who Abarth was. Or what an Abarth is. Much less, who has heard of Fiat. But say, "It's Italian" and then people as questions. So, it's worth owning just for that. Plus the look is so ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2017 FIAT 124 Spider currently has 0 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2017 FIAT 124 Spider has not been tested.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / unlimited distance

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by FIAT

Program Benefits

Every eligible vehicle is 100% inspected and comes with: A factory-backed 6-Year/80,000-Mile Added Care Plus Warranty*, 24-Hour Towing and Roadside Assistance**, Car Rental Allowance***.

  • Limited Warranty

    6 years / 80,000 miles

    6-years/80,000-miles (whichever comes first). Added Care Plus Warranty runs from the date the vehicle was sold new. A deductible applies. See Studio for details.
  • Eligibility

    Under 3 years / 75,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 100% Inspected.

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All Model Years for the FIAT 124 Spider

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The 124 Spider received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker