$24,995 - $28,295

2018 FIAT 124 Spider Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 FIAT 124 Spider was new.


Performance: 8.9

The appeal of driving a 2018 Fiat 124 Spider stems from the enjoyment of a nimble, sprightly platform. Its turbocharged engine is energetic (but not muscular), and its standard manual transmission adds to your driving pleasure. For a boost in performance, set your sights on Abarth models.

  • "Like the Miata, the 124's diminutive figure is both part of its appeal and the cause of many of its shortcomings. Similarly, the small, turbocharged engine is likewise a distinctive trait with its own appeals and pitfalls: It's punchy and eager high in the rev range, but it's distinctly underpowered at low to medium rpm." -- Edmunds
  • "The 124 Spider is fundamentally a mature, grown-up MX-5 that rides more smoothly and has easily accessible but moderate levels of power." -- Autoblog (2017)
  • "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 (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The 124 Spider comes with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and the choice of a standard six-speed manual transmission or an available six-speed automatic. The Spider Classica and Spider Lusso have a 160-horsepower rating. A sport exhaust system boosts output on the Spider Abarth to 164 horsepower.

This engine won't give you a blistering start, but it does feel energetic once you reach third gear. Driving enthusiasts will cheer over the manual transmission, and those looking to save at the gas pump will appreciate its outstanding fuel economy. The 124 Spider gets a class-leading 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on highway.

  • "The 124 is slow off the line, but the car starts smoothly and consistently. The transmission is overly eager to upshift, and it frequently leaves you without power. This leads to lots of hunting around for the right gear during spirited driving, on hills, and while maneuvering through traffic." -- Edmunds
  • "There's a nice surge of turbo boost and torque at about 2000 rpm, but the thrust tapers off beyond the 5500-rpm power peak. Unlike the Miata, which is good to the last rev, the Fiat's final 1000 rpm before its 6500-rpm redline isn't worth exploring. Compared with the 155-hp 2.0-liter in the Miata, the turbocharged engine comes across as lazier and less eager to be abused. Some of that is certainly due to the easy flow of low-end torque, but the Fiat never feels any stronger than the naturally aspirated Miata. Turbo lag is present, but it's easy to mitigate by keeping the revs above 2000 rpm. However, should you roll through a stop in second gear and lug the engine down to idle, you'll find there's a delay before the engine wakes up." -- Car and Driver (2017)
  • "If you're used to the linear windup of a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter (like, for example, the one on the MX-5), the 1.4-liter turbo is the single biggest difference you'll notice from behind the very familiar steering wheel. It'll take a minute to adjust; with peak torque available from 2,500 rpm, you don't have to thrash it to get it moving. But it really starts to scoot at around 3,200 rpm, and after that, it's not long until you hit redline and run out of steam." -- Autoweek (2017)

Handling and Braking

The rear-wheel-drive 124 Spider feels agile and quick on its feet, with precise steering and strong brakes. Its suspension does a good job minimizing body lean in corners and jostling from uneven pavement. Abarth models are more athletic, with standard performance-tuned suspension with Sport mode selector and available Brembo performance brakes.

  • "Steering, handling and braking performance are definite strengths for this lightweight roadster." -- Edmunds
  • "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." -- CNET (2017)
  • "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 (2017)

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