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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

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Last year, I had the chance to spend a week in a Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. While I found it to offer improved handling and a somewhat nicer interior over the Mazda MX-5 Miata it is based on, there were a few items that kept me from saying it was better - mainly the turbo engine and exterior design. A couple of months ago, I found myself in another 124 Spider. This time, it was the Lusso which drops a fair amount of the aggression from the Abarth, along with providing a softer suspension tune. Would this model be able to change my tune?

  • The Lusso is the polar opposite to the Abarth I drove last year in terms of looks. It is toned down with the removal of the aggressive bumpers and quad-tip exhausts. The end result is a much cleaner look. I just wished Fiat could have done more to the rear end as it still looks a bit out of place with the rest of the design.
  • This particular Lusso is the Red Top Edition which as the name suggests has a red soft-top. I will admit this does add a touch of personality and helps the 124 Spider stand out.
  • Not much has changed with the interior since our last review. Getting in and out is still a bit tough due to the low ride height and anyone over six-feet will feel quite cramped. The overall design is the same as the MX-5 Miata, with slight differences to the steering wheel and instrument cluster to make it slightly more Fiat-ish. Material quality is slightly higher than the Mazda, with more soft-touch materials.
  • One issue I did discover in this go-around is the location of the 12-volt outlet. It is mounted deep in the passenger footwell, almost near the engine firewall. Finding it was not a pleasant experience as I needed to pull out my phone to act as a flashlight to find the stupid thing.
  • Power comes from the turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. Compared to the Abarth, the Lusso loses four horsepower. This is due to a more restrictive exhaust. My tester came with the optional six-speed automatic.
  • I wish that I could say Fiat solved the engine issued I mentioned in the previous review, but they have not. The turbo engine still feels laggy on the low-end of the rpm band. Plus, the automatic transmission is tuned to quickly upshift to improve fuel economy. This leaves you without any turbo boost when you want it. I keep thinking that the six-speed manual would be slightly better as it would me control when it is time to shift, allowing the engine to be fully exploited.
  • One trait that sets the 124 Spider apart from its Miata brethren is the suspension tuning. Fiat decided to go with a softer tune on most models - the Abarth is the exception as it gets a stiffer suspension setup. The difference is noticeable as the 124 Spider provides a slightly smoother ride than the Miata. This softening doesn’t change the handling dynamics of the Spider. It still darts into turns with minimal body roll and fast steering.
  • The Lusso Red Top Edition sits as the flagship of the 2018 124 Spider lineup with a base price of $31,440. This comes equipped with a number of options such backup camera, Bose audio system, navigation, and heated seats as standard equipment. With destination, this vehicle comes to an as-tested price of $32,435.
  • The Lusso model may be the sweet spot in the 124 Spider lineup as it offers a slightly smoother ride and improved interior. But Fiat still needs to address the performance of the turbo-four. It is a great alternative to the MX-5 Miata, but not better.

Gallery: 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

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

Year: 2018
Make: Fiat
Model: 124 Spider
Trim: Lusso
Engine: 1.4L MultiAir SOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive 
Horsepower @ RPM: 160 @ 5,500
Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
Curb Weight: 2,476 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
Base Price: $27,595
As Tested Price: $32,435 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Red Top Edition Package 22T - $2,495.00
Red Top Edition Package 2DT - $1,350.00


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Still like the Mazda version better. Although this is hot. Bring me the 64 Pontiac wagon...the SSR...and a brand new Silverado HD...along with this...and this Fiat....another whole dream car garage.

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2 hours ago, A Horse With No Name said:

Still like the Mazda version better. Although this is hot. Bring me the 64 Pontiac wagon...the SSR...and a brand new Silverado HD...along with this...and this Fiat....another whole dream car garage.

Agreed, while I am too big and have never been into small sports cars, there are many others out there that look better than this. Hell, I would rather take a Saturn Sky or pontiac Solstice over this Fiat.

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From Washington State sports car club overlooking the Columbia

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The Sky and Solstice look good from the outside, but I remember sitting in them at a car show when they were new---nasty Fisher-Price interior plastics and weird placement of some things.

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12 minutes ago, Robert Hall said:

The Sky and Solstice look good from the outside, but I remember sitting in them at a car show when they were new---nasty Fisher-Price interior plastics and weird placement of some things.

True, but just think if it had a quality interior, these cars might still be around today.

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4 hours ago, dfelt said:

True, but just think if it had a quality interior, these cars might still be around today.

I dont think the interior quality of these had any bearing of the success (or lack of success) of these. 

Seeing that Pontiac and Saturn were shutdown shortly after the Kappa twins were introduced to the world. 

I think the lack of success of the Kappa twins were in fact just a symbolic gesture of the lack of focus and attention their respective brands got from parent company General Motors.  

Saturn did not really need a roadster at this time. Saturn needed to get back to what made Saturn a success in the first place. And that was product that was not badge engineered from the GM umbrella. The whole purpose of Saturn was to be a different kind of car company.

 

Image result for Saturn. A different kind of company

 

Pontiac, had lost its identity when they started ditching their engines and went for Chevrolet/GM corporate engines. And then the whole FWD badge engineered platforms they shared with virtually every other GM brands...and into the 1990s and the 2000s, with Saturn too...

Pontiac at this time did not know if they wanted to be plastic cladded boy racer FWD appliances that appear to be sporty, or plastic cladded boy racer FWD soccer mom vehicles that appear to be sporty or hanging on to RWD...ditching RWD but then going back to RWD with 4 cylinder roadsters and muscle cars from Australia that have ZERO Pontiac DNA...(those muscle cars from Australia were awesome, but they were more or less GM corporate affairs than anything else...OK...Chevrolet DNA with a "put another shrimp on the barbie" accent...

GM badge engineered the Kappa twins(triplets) and lost focus on what their respective brands actually needed. Twas Pontiac only that really  needed the RWD roadster to spark excitement into the brand. Opel and Saturn did not need these. 

And in turn, the Kappa twins(triplets) were wrongfully marketed to their respective brands.  And in turn, the other GM brands, including the recipients of the Kappa twins(triplets) were starved of funds and R&D for much needed better product planning...

 

 

On the Fiat 124 roadster. 

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Abarth or Lusso. 

Very Italian. Very Nicely done. 

The Kappa twins were good, but I think Fiat was wise to go to Mazda. 

GM tried to do it on their own, came up short. This Fiat on all trims (124, Lusso, Abarth) is a winner, and if Im not mistaken, has outlived the Kappa twins(triplets)...

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11 hours ago, dfelt said:

True, but just think if it had a quality interior, these cars might still be around today.

Interior was the least of thier problems.

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oh to fly to Miami and rent one of these for a bit while everyone else is cold in the north.

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2 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

oh to fly to Miami and rent one of these for a bit while everyone else is cold in the north.

Yeah, I wouldn't mind being down there this week...my sister is going to Miami next week leaving for a Caribbean cruise for a week..

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32 minutes ago, Drew Dowdell said:

oh to fly to Miami and rent one of these for a bit while everyone else is cold in the north.

Interested in your opinions on this.

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    • By William Maley
      What a difference that four years make. That's the timeframe from the first Kia electric I reviewed (Soul EV) to the model seen here, the 2019 Niro EV. So much has changed in terms of battery technology and overall range that I could see myself having an electric vehicle as a primary mode of transport. There are some still some issues that make me think twice, but they are getting smaller.
      Kia avoided the trend of going crazy with the Niro EV’s design. Little touches such as blue accent trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, and closed-front grille hiding the charging port help the EV stand apart from other Niro models. Changes inside are even smaller with a new center console featuring a dial control for the drive selector. This move is very smart as many buyers really don’t want their vehicle to shout “LOOK AT ME” when driving. The electric powertrain in the Niro EV packs quite the punch - 201 horsepower and 291 pound-feet of torque. This is up 62 and 92 respectively from the Niro Hybrid I drove a few years back. Providing the electricity is a 64 kWh Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery that provides an estimated range of 239 miles. Kia says the Niro EV will hit 60 mph in under eight seconds. But I found it to be slightly quicker thanks to all of the torque being available instantly. Merging onto a freeway is where the electric powertrain does lose steam - blame a hefty curb weight of 3,854 pounds. I saw a maximum range of 208 to 210 miles throughout my week. This was due to cold temperatures ranging from low 30s to high 40s. But I was able to do a forty-mile round-trip commute for most of the week without having any range anxiety issues. Charging anxiety is a different story. If you have been reading my electric and plug-in hybrid reviews, then you’ll know that I only have access to 120V charging at home. Plugging the Niro EV after my day job meant waiting over sixteen hours for a full charge. This caused me to not want to venture out far unless I had some important errands to run as it would mean a longer time for a recharge. If I had completely depleted the battery, I would be waiting over two days for the battery to recharge. If you have a 240V charger, that time drops to 9.5 hours for a full-recharge. Finding a quick charger has gotten easier in the past year or two, but it is still a hit and miss affair. There are no quick chargers near where I live (unless I have a Tesla). It's slightly better further south where I work as there some around the area. But that introduces its own set of problems such setting aside the time to charge up the vehicle to finding if one works. I should note that I didn’t get the chance to try quick charging with the Niro EV during my week.  Handling is slightly better in the Niro EV thanks to the additional weight of the battery pack which reduces body roll. Steering is very light when turning, but will surprise you with how quick and accurate it deals with changes in direction. Ride quality is a little bit firm with some bumps and imperfections making their way inside. Where the Niro EV shines is noise isolation. During my work commute, I was surprised by how little wind and road noise came inside.  The major downside to the Niro EV is its limited availability. At the time of this writing, Kia is only selling the Niro EV is twelve states - most of them having Zero Emission Vehicle (or ZEV) programs that require automakers to sell a certain amount of electric vehicles in their lineups. Nothing is stopping you from purchasing a Niro EV in one of the states that it is available, but I’m wondering how many people will do that. Pricing for the Niro EV begins at $38,500 for the base EX model. I had the EX Premium at $44,000 which adds such goodies as an eight-inch touchscreen, premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats; sunroof. Add in a $1,000 Launch Edition package (LED headlights, front parking sensors, and auto-dimming rear-view mirror), and my as-tested price came to $45,995. Expensive bit of kit, but the Niro EV does come with a long list of standard features including heated outside mirrors with power folding; seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and push-button start. Plus, the Niro EV qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit which may sway some buyers when it comes time to do their taxes. The Kia Niro EV is the first electric vehicle that I could see myself living with. It drives for the most part as a normal vehicle and offers enough range for most people. The big item you need to be aware of is charging. If you decide to purchase, be sure to get a 240V charger and check to see if there are any sort of fast chargers in your area. It may mean the difference between worry-free and a large amount of anxiety. Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Niro EV, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2019
      Make: Kia
      Model: Niro EV
      Trim: EX Premium
      Engine: 356V Permanent Magnet Synchronous Electric Motor
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Lithium Ion Polymer Battery Pack
      Horsepower @ RPM: 201 @ 3,800 - 8,000
      Torque @ RPM: 291 @ 0 - 3,600
      Estimated Range: 239 Miles
      Curb Weight: 3,854 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: 
      Base Price: $44,000
      As Tested Price: $46,045 (Includes $1,045.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Launch Edition - $1,000.00

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