$18,212 - $21,468

2017 FIAT 124 Spider Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 FIAT 124 Spider was new.


Performance: 9.0

The point of having a sports car is to enjoy driving, and you certainly will in the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider. Its turbocharged engine has plenty of juice. Whether you stick with the standard manual transmission or opt for the automatic, you'll be treated to smooth shifts and get excellent fuel economy. However, most critics agree that the manual is the more fun option.

The 124 Spider is perfectly at home on winding roads, and its nimble handling allows you to aggressively tackle winding roads. You won't have to worry about jarring impacts either, as the Spider handles road imperfections well, providing a comfortable ride.

  • "Getting back to inevitable for a moment, when you stop and think about the Fiata, it's basically inevitable that when you start with a platform like the Miata, the resulting roadster is going to be a pretty great driver's car. I mean, FCA would have really had to bollocks up everything to do otherwise. Guess what? They didn't. In fact, I'm going to sacrilegiously argue that the Fiata is better to drive for most people than the Miata." -- Motor Trend
  • "Let's be honest. What you really want is the Abarth, at a base price of $28,195, rasp and all. As I see it, the 124 Spider is slightly better than the Miata, and the Abarth is definitely better than the Miata. It's the little things that make something that was already pretty damn good into something that's great. It's that little extra heft in the slightly beefier wheel. It's that slightly deeper engine noise. It's that more widely available torque. It's the way it tries to flatten itself out. It's the way it's ever-so-slightly better proportioned. In Abarth guise, this is the Miata you always wanted. It's the Miata the world always wanted. And for the weirdos out there, there's still, always, the Miata. But give me this instead." -- Jalopnik
  • "Annoyances aside, the Fiat 124 Spider is a blast. And at $25,990, including shipping, it's coming billed as cheapest new turbocharged-convertible on the market." -- USA Today

Acceleration and Power

The 124 Spider comes standard with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 160 horsepower. The Abarth trim features the same engine but produces a slightly more robust 164 horsepower. Though not nearly as powerful as the engines of muscle cars like the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro, the turbo-four still moves the Spider well. There's plenty of pickup when you hit the gas, and the engine and exhaust sound good in the process. There is a bit of a turbo lag, but the available automatic transmission does a good job of mitigating it.

A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic transmission is available. Both deliver excellent shifts, but if you're truly trying to maximize the driving enjoyment the 124 Spider offers, then test drivers agree that the manual is the way to go. It'll also save you a pretty penny, as upgrading to the automatic will add more than $1,000 to the Spider's price tag.

Fuel economy is frequently an afterthought on sports cars, but the Spider won't force you to sign your paychecks over to your local gas station. With the manual transmission, the Spider gets an EPA-estimated 26 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway, which are among the best ratings in the class.

  • "I … love the Abarth. I merely drove it on an autocross course, but even still. 'Not enough power,' the peasants moan. But you, dear peons of society, don't know what you're talking about. Want more power? Get a Mustang. This is about having fun. With a dollop of manic, guttural insanity on top. First off, it sounds absolutely gorgeous, all rasp and moan and wail. Just listen to it: That quad-tip exhaust adds an extra four horsepower, which you don't notice at all. But it's in the other bits that makes it so wonderful." -- Jalopnik
  • "A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and this one works as brilliantly in the Italian job as the six-speed unit found in the Mazda. Shifts are short and precise, and the engine is alert enough to make rev-matching a joy. Our only gripe, and it's an exceedingly minor quibble, is that the Spider's squared-off shift knob is less pleasant to grab than the Miata's spherical one. We also found that the turbo engine is quite happy working with the six-speed automatic transmission, a $1350 option. Shifts are quick, downshifts are immediate, and the automatic is smart enough to keep the four-cylinder's torque at the ready." -- Car and Driver
  • "The turbo engine doesn't change the car's nature as much as expected, though that opinion might change on a road with tighter turns than the 124 experienced for this drive. It pulls nicely out of the mostly third-gear corners, but when launching from a rolling start-when a red light changes to green just before you come to a complete stop, for instance—you'll need to row back into first instead of second. The … gearbox is slick as ever, of course, with short, positive throws. Clutch takeup is perfectly linear for novice and expert alike, and the pedals are arranged for easy heel-and-toeing. Due to the turbo lag, though, you have to give the throttle a bigger blip to properly match revs for the downshift." -- Automobile Magazine

Handling and Braking

Any two-seat roadster is inevitably going to be compared to the Mazda MX-5 Miata, and the 124 Spider holds up favorably upon inspection. It handles well, and although there is some body roll when taking turns, the Spider still has solid road grip. The Abarth trim feels even more athletic thanks to its performance suspension.

The Spider's steering is sharp and provides good feedback, and the available Brembo brakes provide good stopping power. The ride is compliant, and it handles road imperfections well in most instances.

  • "The Fiat in each of its versions shares with the other car a reassuring balance of ride and handling, with a significant degree of compliance going into a tight corner. Then it takes a set and guides you firmly around the corner with an easy willingness to rotate in a controllable way. It's that same tasty polar moment of inertia that makes its sibling so much fun to drive, without being uncomfortable over crusty roads and expansion strips." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The Fiata's helm is much smoother on the freeway, yet once you start cranking it on a back road or autocross track, it provides just as much feedback. Even if it's slightly less, the Fiat's steering feel and accuracy is excellent." -- Motor Trend
  • "The differences in handling, however, are more pronounced. The Fiata rides noticeably softer than the Miata. Both cars exhibit some roll when chucked into a corner, but the Fiat leans over just a touch more. The Miata feels more active, agile and playful, where the 124 Spider feels more planted, stable and grown up. Both offer very direct and rewarding steering and very good seat-of-the-pants feel. Fiat chose well when it picked Mazda, maker of one of the best roadsters of all time, to revive its 124 Spider nameplate." -- CNET

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