Yesterday Fiat pulled the wraps off the 2017 124 Spider, which shares a platform with the ND generation Mazda Miata. However unlike most badge-engineered vehicles, the 124 Spider boasts many differences over the car on which it’s based.
It’s easy to see where Fiat applied its own touches to the exterior. Every single body panel is new, the result of Fiat applying its own “100 percent Italian,” design language to the little roadster. The front end resembles the original 124 Spider and is more squared off than the Miata, while the rear features sharp, squared off taillights that also harken back to the original. The hood is another area that throws back to the first 124 Spider, featuring a pair of quintessentially Fiat ‘power dome’ vents.
The differences aren’t reserved to the styling. While the wheelbase measurements are identical, the Fiat’s bodywork makes it slightly longer than the 154.1-inch Miata at 159.6 inches. The 124 Spider is also 0.2-inches wider and 0.1 inch shorter – again the result of bigger bodywork. Additionally, the Fiat is 104 pounds heavier than the Miata when comparing manual-equipped models and 95-pounds heavier when comparing automatic-equipped models.
Perhaps the most important change has happened under the hood. Rather than using Mazda’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, Fiat employed its own 1.4-liter turbocharged mill from the 500 Abarth. The engine puts out 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in the 124 Spider – more than the Miata’s figures of 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet, which has resulted in a slightly better power-to-weight ratio for the Italian.
Both the 124 Spider and the Miata offer six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. The two car’s automatic transmissions have the same individual gearing, however the Fiat has a 3.58 final drive ratio versus the Mazda’s 3.45 ratio. The individual gearing for the manual transmission is shorter in the Fiat due to the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine’s low-end torque delivery.
Underneath, the two cars are identical, with both featuring a double wishbone suspension setup out front with a multi-link setup in the back. The roadsters both offer a choice of 16- and 17-inch wheels and have the same tire and brake sizes.
As we mentioned when the 124 Spider first debuted, the interiors are nearly identical. The same infotainment system is offered along with a similar steering wheel (the Fiat’s is slight chunkier), however Fiat has made changes to the door panels, applied some additional soft touch materials on the dash and used a different font for the instrument cluster.
We’re sure the two cars will drive much different despite offering many similarities, but we probably won’t get to experience the 124 Spider for ourselves until late next year. We’ve had a go in the ND Miata, though, and in our well-educated opinion, the Fiat should be equally as exciting and then some.