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    • By William Maley
      FCA US Reports 2017 December and Full-year Sales
      Chrysler Pacifica minivan posts best December sales ever Ram Truck brand records full-year sales increase in 2017 versus 2016 A 42 percent year-over-year decline in fleet sales for December is in line with the FCA US strategy to reduce sales to the daily rental segment January 3, 2018 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - FCA US LLC today reported sales of 171,946 units, an 11 percent decrease compared with sales in December 2016 (192,519 units).
       
      In December, retail sales of 150,772 units were down 3 percent compared with the same month in 2016 and represented 88 percent of total sales. In line with FCA’s strategy to reduce sales to the daily rental segment, fleet sales of 21,174 units were down, as expected, 42 percent year over year. The largest planned volume reduction in December fleet sales came from the Jeep® brand, which reduced its fleet sales number by 75 percent year over year. Fleet sales represented 12 percent of total FCA US December sales.
       
      The Chrysler Pacifica minivan posted an 8 percent year-over-year increase for its best December sales ever. The Fiat 124 Spider recorded its best December sales as well. Other FCA US vehicles posting year-over-year sales increases in the month of December were the Chrysler 300, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Compass and Ram ProMaster City.
       
      Chrysler Brand
      Chrysler brand sales were up 3 percent in December, compared with the same month a year ago. Both the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the Chrysler 300 full-size sedan posted sales increases in December. Sales of the 300 were up 60 percent for its best December sales since 2012. For the second-consecutive year, the Pacifica captured both the Minivan and Family Vehicle Best Buy awards from the automotive editors at Consumer Guide Automotive.
       
      Jeep Brand
      Jeep Compass, Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee delivered year over year increases for December. Sales of the Cherokee were up 18 percent in December, compared with the same month a year ago. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler has earned a Residual Value Award from ALG, the industry benchmark for residual values and depreciation data, in the Off-road Utility segment. 
       
      For the full year, Jeep Grand Cherokee sales increased 13 percent, compared with sales in 2016.
       
      FIAT Brand
      Sales of the Fiat 124 Spider were up 15 percent year over year for its best December sales ever. For the second-consecutive year, the 124 Spider took home a Best Buy award in the Sporty Performance Car category from Consumer Guide Automotive.
       
      Dodge Brand
      The Dodge Durango full-size SUV posted its best full year of sales since 2006. The Durango – for the sixth-consecutive year – earned the Best Buy award in the Large SUV category from Consumer Guide Automotive. In addition, Strategic Vision named the Dodge Charger to its “Most Loved Vehicles in America” list for the fourth-consecutive year. 
        
      Ram Truck Brand
      Ram Truck brand sales were up year over year in 2017 versus 2016. In addition, sales of the Ram pickup truck edged up year over year in 2017 versus the previous year. For the 10th-consecutive year, the Ram pickup captured the Best Buy award for Large Pickup Truck from Consumer Guide Automotive.
       
      Alfa Romeo Brand
      Alfa Romeo brand sales of 2,034 units were up significantly compared with the same month a year ago and recorded its strongest monthly sales of 2017. Furthermore, Motor Trend named the Alfa Romeo Giulia as its 2018 Car of the Year, best representing exceptional value, superiority in its class and impact on the automotive scene.
      FCA US LLC Sales Summary December 2017
                          Month Sales
      Vol %
      CYTD Sales
      Vol %
        Model
      Curr Yr
      Pr Yr
      Change
      Curr Yr
      Pr Yr
      Change
        Compass
      8,743
      7,954
      10%
      83,253
      94,061
      -11%
        Patriot
      240
      7,809
      -97%
      40,735
      121,926
      -67%
        Wrangler
      13,700
      15,721
      -13%
      190,522
      191,774
      -1%
        Cherokee
      19,358
      16,380
      18%
      169,882
      199,736
      -15%
        Grand Cherokee
      23,622
      23,250
      2%
      240,696
      212,273
      13%
        Renegade
      7,542
      12,045
      -37%
      103,434
      106,606
      -3%
        JEEP BRAND
      73,205
      83,159
      -12%
      828,522
      926,376
      -11%
        200
      332
      2,643
      -87%
      18,457
      57,294
      -68%
        300
      5,726
      3,584
      60%
      51,237
      53,241
      -4%
        Town & Country
      6
      266
      -98%
      577
      59,071
      -99%
        Pacifica
      11,144
      10,283
      8%
      118,274
      62,366
      90%
        CHRYSLER BRAND
      17,208
      16,776
      3%
      188,545
      231,972
      -19%
        Dart
      139
      1,525
      -91%
      10,082
      43,402
      -77%
        Charger
      6,830
      7,237
      -6%
      88,351
      95,437
      -7%
        Challenger
      4,508
      5,257
      -14%
      64,537
      64,433
      0%
        Viper
      9
      59
      -85%
      585
      630
      -7%
        Journey
      4,227
      9,768
      -57%
      89,470
      106,759
      -16%
        Caravan
      6,623
      6,687
      -1%
      125,196
      127,678
      -2%
        Durango
      5,547
      5,796
      -4%
      68,761
      68,474
      0%
        DODGE  BRAND
      27,885
      36,329
      -23%
      446,996
      506,858
      -12%
        Ram P/U
      44,907
      47,556
      -6%
      500,723
      489,418
      2%
        ProMaster Van
      3,352
      4,694
      -29%
      40,483
      40,440
      0%
        ProMaster City
      1,617
      1,347
      20%
      15,584
      15,972
      -2%
        RAM BRAND
      49,876
      53,597
      -7%
      556,790
      545,851
      2%
        500
      667
      1,411
      -53%
      12,685
      15,437
      -18%
        500L
      111
      102
      9%
      1,664
      3,118
      -47%
        500X
      673
      843
      -20%
      7,665
      11,712
      -35%
        Spider
      287
      250
      15%
      4,478
      2,475
      81%
        FIAT BRAND
      1,738
      2,606
      -33%
      26,492
      32,742
      -19%
        Giulia
      1,011
      29
      3386%
      8,903
      36
      24631%
        Alfa 4C 
      26
      23
      13%
      407
      480
      -15%
        Stelvio
      997
      0
      New
      2,721
      0
      New
        ALFA ROMEO
      2,034
      52
      3812%
      12,031
      516
      2232%
        FCA US LLC
      171,946
      192,519
      -11%
      2,059,376
      2,244,315
      -8%
                   
    • By Drew Dowdell
      Previous Page Next Page As the 2017 Los Angeles auto show wraps up today, let's take a look back at the new vehicles we saw.  Part one, the largest grouping by far, the mainstream crossovers and SUVs.
      2018 Nissan Kicks

      The Details: The Kicks has been sold in the South American market for a few years.  It migrates north to replace the Nissan Juke.  It comes with a 1.6 liter engine and CVT routing all 125 stampeding horses and 115 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels.
      Why it Matters: A rolling mass-market crossover cliche;  Floating roof, genuine simulated contrast stitching, flat bottom steering wheel. Product planners pulled out all the stops when faced with trying to make a crossover that could only be had with front-wheel drive and a 125 hp 4-cylinder interesting and relevant. Expect performance to be sedentary and price to be cheap. The 2018 Kicks probably sell well for price alone, but the Kia Soul seems more interesting if AWD is not on the shopping list and Renegade or Ecosport if AWD is needed. Click here to read more about the 2018 Nissan Kicks.
      Competitors: Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V, Ford EcoSport, Mazda CX-3, Ambien, Tylenol PM
      2018 Jeep Wrangler

      The Details: New Turbo-4, updated V6, 8-speed auto or 6-speed manual, 3.0 liter diesel coming, plug-in hybrid coming. Lots more details at our 2018 Jeep Wrangler article.
      Why it Matters: The Wrangler was easily the most iconic vehicle shown at the 2017 LA Auto Show.  FCA finally modernized the Wrangler, a feat hard to do with tons of purists out there. I think they have managed to pull it off in such a way that brings the Wrangler up to date and will still satisfy all but the staunchest of luddites. The Wrangler has been a segment of one for years with the only close competitor being the Toyota 4Runner. Click here to read more about the 2018 Jeep Wrangler
      Competitors: Toyota 4Runner, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon with a 66% discount
       
      Next up: Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line
       
      2019 Subaru Ascent

      The Details: Subaru gets back into the mid-size crossover game with a conventional looking 3-row. Power only comes from an all new direct injected 260 hp, 277 lb-ft turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder. AWD and CVT are standard.
      Why it Matters: Subaru’s last attempt at a mid-size crossover bombed hard. It was odd looking, over priced, and had terrible fuel economy.  This time Subaru took the safe route, put their Forester on the copy machine and enlarged it 150%. Of the mass-market crossovers I visited during the show, the new Ascent had one of the nicest interiors I encountered. That said, it will need that asset because it is definitely on the smaller side of the segment.  People shopping the Chevrolet Traverse or Honda Pilot will probably find this Subaru to be too cramped. Subaru is one of the strongest growing brands in the US  and the new Ascent is going to add to that momentum. Click here to read more information about the 2019 Subaru Ascent
      Competitors: Every mainstream 3-row crossover made, but especially the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Atlas ,and Nissan Pathfinder
      2018 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line

      The Details: A sport appearance package for your smallish-midsize Volkswagen crossover. 19” wheels for R-Line SEL trims and 20” wheels for R-Line SEL Premium trims. Sportier bumpers with ample gloss black applique, black headliner, R-Line logos plastered on everything.  Otherwise, it’s the same as any new Tiguan available at your local VW dealer since July. Click here to read more information about the Volkswagen Tiguan
      Why it matters: Audi tastes and Volkswagen budget? Say no more!
      Competitors: Every small crossover made, but especially Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Rogue
       
      Next up: Hyundai Kona, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Kia Sorento
      2018 Hyundai Kona

      The Details: A funky new compact crossover from Hyundai that you’ll either love or hate the looks of.  All of the standard stuff is there, two choices of 4-cylinder, turbocharged and not, Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, floating roof treatment.
      Why it matters: A Hyundai designer and Jeep designer snuck into a Citroen design studio one night and made a baby.  As crowded as the compact crossover segment is getting, there are a lot of forgettable entries. Hyundai made sure you won’t forget theirs. Click here to read more about the 2018 Hyundai Kona
      Competitors: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Toyota C-HR, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, used Pontiac Azteks
      2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

      The Details: A compact crossover with more of an emphasis on sport than most of its peers. A 1.5 liter turbo direct-injected 4-cylinder offers a compelling 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Super All-Wheel Control, Mitsubishi’s selectable all-wheel drive system offers a bit more control over exactly what the wheels are up to.  The transmission is a CVT. All trims except the base model get Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
      Why it matters: I knew the Mitsubishi Eclipse.  The Mitsubishi Eclipse was a friend of mine.  You sir, are no Mitsubishi Eclipse. That said, Mitsubishi is clinging on for dear life in the US market at the moment, and sports hatchbacks are not where the money is at right now.  Name issues aside, the Eclipse Cross was one of the bigger surprises for me at the 2017 LA Auto Show.  It looks great in person, the interior is up-market for the segment, the powertrain sounds promising, and pricing is set to start at $23,295.  Mitsubishi could have a hit on their hands if they manage to get the word out. Click here to read more about the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
      Competitors: Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX3, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Eco-Sport, Subaru CrossTrek
       
      2019 Kia Sorento

      The Details: The 2.0T is gone. The 2.4 4-cylinder and 3.3 V6 continue on, but now paired with a new Kia designed 8-speed automatic. Light interior and exterior refresh that won’t be noticeable to most people. Diesel option is on the way.
      Why it Matters: The Sorento is Kia’s 4th best selling models clocking in almost 92k units for 2017 so far. This incremental refresh keeps it up to date and relevant in a competitive market. The Sorento is Kia’s largest crossover, but like the Subaru Ascent, it is on the small side of the 3-row crossover segment. It’s most compelling feature being price and warranty. Click here to read more about the 2019 Kia Sorento
      Competitors: Subaru Ascent, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX9, Toyota Highlander, Mitsubishi Outlander
       
      Previous Page Next Page
      View full article
    • By Drew Dowdell
      Previous Page Next Page As the 2017 Los Angeles auto show wraps up today, let's take a look back at the new vehicles we saw.  Part one, the largest grouping by far, the mainstream crossovers and SUVs.
      2018 Nissan Kicks

      The Details: The Kicks has been sold in the South American market for a few years.  It migrates north to replace the Nissan Juke.  It comes with a 1.6 liter engine and CVT routing all 125 stampeding horses and 115 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels.
      Why it Matters: A rolling mass-market crossover cliche;  Floating roof, genuine simulated contrast stitching, flat bottom steering wheel. Product planners pulled out all the stops when faced with trying to make a crossover that could only be had with front-wheel drive and a 125 hp 4-cylinder interesting and relevant. Expect performance to be sedentary and price to be cheap. The 2018 Kicks probably sell well for price alone, but the Kia Soul seems more interesting if AWD is not on the shopping list and Renegade or Ecosport if AWD is needed. Click here to read more about the 2018 Nissan Kicks.
      Competitors: Kia Soul, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Toyota C-HR, Honda HR-V, Ford EcoSport, Mazda CX-3, Ambien, Tylenol PM
      2018 Jeep Wrangler

      The Details: New Turbo-4, updated V6, 8-speed auto or 6-speed manual, 3.0 liter diesel coming, plug-in hybrid coming. Lots more details at our 2018 Jeep Wrangler article.
      Why it Matters: The Wrangler was easily the most iconic vehicle shown at the 2017 LA Auto Show.  FCA finally modernized the Wrangler, a feat hard to do with tons of purists out there. I think they have managed to pull it off in such a way that brings the Wrangler up to date and will still satisfy all but the staunchest of luddites. The Wrangler has been a segment of one for years with the only close competitor being the Toyota 4Runner. Click here to read more about the 2018 Jeep Wrangler
      Competitors: Toyota 4Runner, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon with a 66% discount
       
      Next up: Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line
       
      2019 Subaru Ascent

      The Details: Subaru gets back into the mid-size crossover game with a conventional looking 3-row. Power only comes from an all new direct injected 260 hp, 277 lb-ft turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder. AWD and CVT are standard.
      Why it Matters: Subaru’s last attempt at a mid-size crossover bombed hard. It was odd looking, over priced, and had terrible fuel economy.  This time Subaru took the safe route, put their Forester on the copy machine and enlarged it 150%. Of the mass-market crossovers I visited during the show, the new Ascent had one of the nicest interiors I encountered. That said, it will need that asset because it is definitely on the smaller side of the segment.  People shopping the Chevrolet Traverse or Honda Pilot will probably find this Subaru to be too cramped. Subaru is one of the strongest growing brands in the US  and the new Ascent is going to add to that momentum. Click here to read more information about the 2019 Subaru Ascent
      Competitors: Every mainstream 3-row crossover made, but especially the Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Volkswagen Atlas ,and Nissan Pathfinder
      2018 Volkswagen Tiguan R-Line

      The Details: A sport appearance package for your smallish-midsize Volkswagen crossover. 19” wheels for R-Line SEL trims and 20” wheels for R-Line SEL Premium trims. Sportier bumpers with ample gloss black applique, black headliner, R-Line logos plastered on everything.  Otherwise, it’s the same as any new Tiguan available at your local VW dealer since July. Click here to read more information about the Volkswagen Tiguan
      Why it matters: Audi tastes and Volkswagen budget? Say no more!
      Competitors: Every small crossover made, but especially Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Rogue
       
      Next up: Hyundai Kona, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Kia Sorento
      2018 Hyundai Kona

      The Details: A funky new compact crossover from Hyundai that you’ll either love or hate the looks of.  All of the standard stuff is there, two choices of 4-cylinder, turbocharged and not, Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, floating roof treatment.
      Why it matters: A Hyundai designer and Jeep designer snuck into a Citroen design studio one night and made a baby.  As crowded as the compact crossover segment is getting, there are a lot of forgettable entries. Hyundai made sure you won’t forget theirs. Click here to read more about the 2018 Hyundai Kona
      Competitors: Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, Toyota C-HR, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Ecosport, used Pontiac Azteks
      2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

      The Details: A compact crossover with more of an emphasis on sport than most of its peers. A 1.5 liter turbo direct-injected 4-cylinder offers a compelling 152 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Super All-Wheel Control, Mitsubishi’s selectable all-wheel drive system offers a bit more control over exactly what the wheels are up to.  The transmission is a CVT. All trims except the base model get Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
      Why it matters: I knew the Mitsubishi Eclipse.  The Mitsubishi Eclipse was a friend of mine.  You sir, are no Mitsubishi Eclipse. That said, Mitsubishi is clinging on for dear life in the US market at the moment, and sports hatchbacks are not where the money is at right now.  Name issues aside, the Eclipse Cross was one of the bigger surprises for me at the 2017 LA Auto Show.  It looks great in person, the interior is up-market for the segment, the powertrain sounds promising, and pricing is set to start at $23,295.  Mitsubishi could have a hit on their hands if they manage to get the word out. Click here to read more about the 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross
      Competitors: Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX3, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, Ford Eco-Sport, Subaru CrossTrek
       
      2019 Kia Sorento

      The Details: The 2.0T is gone. The 2.4 4-cylinder and 3.3 V6 continue on, but now paired with a new Kia designed 8-speed automatic. Light interior and exterior refresh that won’t be noticeable to most people. Diesel option is on the way.
      Why it Matters: The Sorento is Kia’s 4th best selling models clocking in almost 92k units for 2017 so far. This incremental refresh keeps it up to date and relevant in a competitive market. The Sorento is Kia’s largest crossover, but like the Subaru Ascent, it is on the small side of the 3-row crossover segment. It’s most compelling feature being price and warranty. Click here to read more about the 2019 Kia Sorento
      Competitors: Subaru Ascent, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX9, Toyota Highlander, Mitsubishi Outlander
       
      Previous Page Next Page
    • By William Maley
      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
    • By William Maley
      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

      View full article
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