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    William Maley
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    Review: 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

      Is the Fiata better than a Miata?

    Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.

    Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing.

    The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.

    Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds.

    Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission.

    Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.

    The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion.

    The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine.

    EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.

    If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider.

    In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.

    Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Fiat
    Model: 124 Spider
    Trim: Abarth
    Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
    Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
    Base Price: $28,195
    As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00


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    I know some are excited that this rebadge Mazda Miata is out there giving Fiat some much needed quality in their auto line. Yet the car is just Meh to me. Small, tiny and just does nothing to excite me. Miata is the same way. So many other exciting cars to drive over this.

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    I wouldn't mind having a Miata at some point..it seems like it (and this variation) is the only affordable pure sports car on the market...seems like it would  be a lot of fun.  Cars like this are all about handling and the joy of driving, not about how fast they can go around a race course or down a drag strip.

     Seems like it would be great for 3 season weekend drives on the winding, hilly backroads of Ohio...

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    9 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    I wouldn't mind having a Miata at some point..it seems like it (and this variation) is the only affordable pure sports car on the market...seems like it would  be a lot of fun.  Cars like this are all about handling and the joy of driving, not about how fast they can go around a race course or down a drag strip.

     Seems like it would be great for 3 season weekend drives on the winding, hilly backroads of Ohio...

    I get the point you're making, but would take an ATS Coupe over a miata or 124.

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    53 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    I get the point you're making, but would take an ATS Coupe over a miata or 124.

    Agreed. But the price difference is probably like 10-15k so that's a difficult comparison. 

    Went to their sites..

    ATS starts at 38k and the Miata starts at 25k. Spider is the same as the Miata. 

    Price wise, its more like a base Mustang/Camaro, BRZ, or Toyota 86 comparison. If I could get the ATS coupe with the same engine as the Camaro 2.0T that would be my choice. I just like the inside, outside, and visibility of the ATS so much more. 

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    2 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

    Agreed. But the price difference is probably like 10-15k so that's a difficult comparison. 

    Went to their sites..

    ATS starts at 38k and the Miata starts at 25k. Spider is the same as the Miata. 

    ATS starts at $37,595 

    Fiat 124 per the story above starts at $28,195

    If the roughly $9,500 is more than you want to spend, I would then go Camero starting at $25,905 or Mustang starting at $25,585 as both I think are superior to the Miata or 124 and can handle on par or better.

    Just my preference, but while I know the American auto's are heavier, a quality driver can handle the added weight and match or beat the Miata/124 duo same as I think they can beat the Subaru/Toyota duo of BRZ/86.

    Again, just MHO.

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    Apples and oranges, the ATS is a luxury sports coupe like the BMW 4-series, etc.  

    Something about a minimalist ragtop like the Miata appeals to me..like the old British sports cars but with reliability and quality.   Maybe I'm also thinking about something fun for my 50th in a few years.  I love my Jeep for daily use, but want something fun and pure also...

    I think @A Horse With No Name would understand.  It's one of those things you either 'get' or don't..I'm starting to 'get' it.   

    As far as the Detroit sports coupes go, I have old Mustangs, kind of like the new Mustang, but find the Challenger far more appealing (want one also).   The Camaro just doesn't appeal to me at all. 

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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    7 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Apples and oranges, the ATS is a luxury sports coupe like the BMW 4-series, etc.  

    Something about a minimalist ragtop like the Miata appeals to me..like the old British sports cars but with reliability and quality.   Maybe I'm also thinking about something fun for my 50th in a few years.  I love my Jeep for daily use, but want something fun and pure also...

    I think @A Horse With No Name would understand.  It's one of those things you either 'get' or don't..I'm starting to 'get' it.   

    As far as the Detroit sports coupes go, I have old Mustangs, kind of like the new Mustang, but find the Challenger far more appealing (want one also).   The Camaro just doesn't appeal to me at all. 

    OK, I turned 50 on November 27th just a couple weeks back and I still have not gone through a midlife crisis according to my kids and wife, so I guess I just do not get it as the Miata while well built is just a cramped uninspiring auto. 

    Does it handle well yes, but I do not get what is so great about the car. The American Pony cars are far superior to me in handling and fun factor. For the fun and handling but in luxury form we have the ATS coupe. So covered no matter what end you want. I really do not get the appeal to the cracker jack box Miata, but then that is my problem I guess as I see Zero Appeal to that car.

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    @dfelt I assume you can understand that not everyone has the same tastes in cars, different cars appeal to different people for different reasons.  I'm not built like an NFL linebacker or NBA player and already have an SUV, so I'm don't need much in terms of storage space in a fun car. I don't need luxury in a sports car either. Another pure sports car that appeals to me is the Boxster, but the Miata would be a much better deal on price and reliability.  

    I like sports coupes like the Mustang, Challenger, ATS, etc but those  are a different genre. 

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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    the 1.4 turbo is amazing in the 500 abarth, and begs the driver to peg the boost gauge. in the roadster format, the engine is eeeeeeeh, and having an automative doesn't help at all. 

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    2 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    @dfelt I assume you can understand that not everyone has the same tastes in cars, different cars appeal to different people for different reasons.  I'm not built like an NFL linebacker or NBA player and already have an SUV, so I'm don't need much in terms of storage space in a fun car. Another pure sports car that appeals to me is the Boxster, but the Miata would be a much better deal on price and reliability.  

    I get that point and fair enough in the body size thing and yet I get the attraction to Porsche and if I am going to pay $30,000 or less and want a true road ripping car regardless of where it comes from. I can find plenty of very low mile Porsches here in Washington for $30,000 or less that would be better than the Miata.

    Autotrader search

    1998 Porsche Boxster with 36,611 miles for $12,687 convertible. This is a freakin awesome deal.

    https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?listingId=467544212&zip=98043&referrer=%2Fcars-for-sale%2Fsearchresults.xhtml%3Fzip%3D98043%26startYear%3D1981%26sortBy%3DderivedpriceDESC%26maxPrice%3D30000%26incremental%3Dall%26firstRecord%3D0%26endYear%3D2018%26makeCodeList%3DPOR%26searchRadius%3D25&startYear=1981&numRecords=25&maxPrice=30000&firstRecord=0&endYear=2018&makeCodeList=POR&searchRadius=25&makeCode1=POR&modelCode1=BOXSTE

     

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    Yeah. But.

    Let us be really honest though.  (Mr. Cubical beat me to the punch. I was typing this post while he posted his.)

    This is the car in question.

    Image result for fiat 124 spider abarth

     

    I understand the reasons why we are picking 2.0T ATS coupes and we are mentioning 2.0T Camaros and ecoboosted Mustangs and Subrau BRZs.  But, we are being quite unfair to the car in question. 

    None of those cars mentioned, including the Toyobaru, are in the same league. As in the Fiat 124 is a roadster. While all are competitors competing for the same market even...even if there is a slight difference in price for all, none drive or feel the same way. Not even the Mustang and Camaro convertibles.

    Visibility in a roadster, top down, well, has to be better than any coupe...

    Handling for a base Camaro or Mustang might be on par with the Fiat 124 Abarth, (I might assume that a 1LE suspension package is available for the Camaro 2.0T?) but the driving feel of a Fiat 124 Abarth is not the same...albeit slightly heavier than the Miata, its still all about being old skool British and Italian roadster...

    With that being said...sure...you folk prefer other enthusiast machines in this range than the Fiat 124 Abarth. Its your choice. In no way am I gonna argue that. 

     

    I personally WOULD choose the Fiat 124 Abarth over all other cars mentioned so far.  With a slight exemption on an ecoboosted convertible Mustang. 

    Image result for ford mustang convertible 2018

     

    For me, the Fiat 124 Abarth is all about the drive and the looks.

    For me,  the ecoboosted Mustang convertible...is all about  the looks. 

    I like them both equally. And I dont car how much money one costs over the other. In other words, if I was gonna be choosing one over the other, money would NOT be one of the criteria. 

     

    EDIT:

    Even Mr. Speedy Fapper weighed in and he too, said what I wanted to say.

    Then a Challenger was also mentioned.  Yes...I would choose the Challenger over all others, but like I started this post, the car in question IS about a Fiat 124 Abarth. It aint fair to it to talk about a muscle car....and yes....Im  all about the muscle cars!!!!

    Edited by oldshurst442
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    3 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    I get that point and fair enough in the body size thing and yet I get the attraction to Porsche and if I am going to pay $30,000 or less and want a true road ripping car regardless of where it comes from. I can find plenty of very low mile Porsches here in Washington for $30,000 or less that would be better than the Miata.

    Autotrader search

    1998 Porsche Boxster with 36,611 miles for $12,687 convertible. This is a freakin awesome deal.

     

     

    For me, I won't spend money on a 20 yr old car...I want a new or CPO car with new car reliability and  a warranty..don't  want to f*ck around the old car problems of a 20 yr old car...been there, done that.

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    I like the Boxster, have ridden in a few and driven a couple.  But I definitely wouldn't want a 20 yr old one...too much that can go wrong, and go German wrong ($$$$).  No more money pits.   I want peace of mind and fun, not a nightmare. 

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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    7 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    @oldshurst442 I hear what your saying but I would take this used Porsche over the 124 as I posted in my response above. This baby to me looks better.

    1998Boxster.jpg

    Yes well...

     

    Charlie Sheen's (Harper's) reaction to the Boxster, particularly this generation closely mirrors my reaction to it...:P

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    11 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    I like the Boxster, have ridden in a few and driven a couple.  But I definitely wouldn't want a 20 yr old one...too much that can go wrong, and go German wrong ($$$$).  No more money pits.   I want peace of mind and fun, not a nightmare. 

    :roflmao: That seems to be Fiat's real name, Money Pit!

    MoneyPit.gif

    For those that wonder what colors and love this car I give you this to help you decide!

    124Abarth.gif

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    58 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    1998 Porsche Boxster

    That's actually more lame of a car than a 2018 MX-5, believe it or not. 201 1998 horsepowers..  

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    For the 28k the Abarth costs it's really difficult to beat because when I build a Mustang or Camaro I add things that swell the price to 30-32k(but with them you can certainly get some discounts but I won't include those). 

    I think the biggest reason I've never really lusted over the small coupe/roadster is I live in such a flat boring landscape. On a daily basis I wouldn't really get to take advantage of something fun and toss-able like the 124/MX-5. 

    I'll add an even larger twist to the game.. Hot hatches. if I had to keep the MSRP under 30k.. I'd probably get a GTI and I haven't heard a bad thing about them on back-road twisties either. Yeah, they're considered wrong wheel drive... 

    GTI.jpg

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    Of all the roadsters, I like this one the best.  As much as I like big luxury cars, there is a part of me that wishes I had the garage space and time to futz with an old British roadster like a Triumph or Austin Healey. 

    The Fiata is about as close one can get to a modern incarnation of those cars... which is blasphemy because it's an Italian name on a Japanese built car..... but it is what it is.  Only the Z4 compares in atmosphere.  I've never really cared for the looks of the Miata in any generation.

    It's for that same reason that I would like an old Saturn Sky Red-Line.... they hit the nail on the head with that car. It's a shame it didn't live on in another brand.

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    The 124 is the brightest spot in the Fiat line, with the 500 Abarth being a dark horse.  I prefer the 124 to the Miata although I like the RF, yet on the other hand when I heard about the wind buffeting problems in the RF it kind of made me not smile as wide.

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    Co-worker of mine searched for over a year for the perfect car to replace his wife's Mini Roadster.  They like Chevy, so when they found a Krypton Green Camaro 2LT with stick somewhere down south, they were excited.  The dealer even paid to have it delivered by rollback to PA.  She comes to pick him up in it most evenings.  It's a hot looking car with the black stripes and wheels.  But the bloom is off the rose already, as he says it is unnecessarily hard to get in and out of, plus you can't see out of it... ALL THIS after living with a Mini Roadster!  He is 56.  /tangent

    Edited by ocnblu

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    I sat in a 5th gen Camaro last year at a car show..ridiculous tiny side windows, tiny mirrors, blind spots everywhere.  Needs Silverado-size outside mirrors and a back up camera.   And maybe a periscope.    

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    1 hour ago, ocnblu said:

    6a00d83451b3c669e201a3fcea8802970b.jpg

    That reminds me of all the generic looking minimalist icons that Google and Apple have put into their software that just makes me think, WTF is that supposed to represent?

    They could not do an arrow if it is a left turn indicator?

    Maybe a star rising?

    Sad that Chevy has taken a cheap ass way of doing whatever it is supposed to represent.

    :stupid:

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