It’s been more than 30 years, but now the wait is over. The 2017 FIAT 124 Spider is here. The original 124 Sport Spider debuted in the mid-1960s, combining the beauty of Italian styling with the freedom of open-air motoring. It was later renamed the 2000 Spider and then the Pininfarina Azzurra Spider. Production ended in the middle of the 1980s.
Now the 124 Spider has returned to expand FIAT’s US model lineup. It’s a combination of past and present, and Italian and – thanks to its Mazda MX-5 Miata underpinnings – Japanese heritage. We experienced that mixture for seven days on the roads and highways of Austin, Texas. We didn’t have to wait long to find things we liked about it.
2017 FIAT 124 Spider Exterior
Even if you’ve never laid eyes on the new 124 Spider, you’ve probably seen it before. (Follow us here for second.) Its spiritual ancestor, which was in production in one form or another for about 20 years, is also a major source of the inspiration for its design.
You can see the influence of the original Spider in the hexagonal grille and the teardrop-shape openings for the projector headlamps. The twin muscular bulges in the new Spider’s hood are reminiscent of those found on its predecessor. From the side, the most obvious similarity between today’s Spider and yesteryear’s version of it is the body line that begins on the front fender and kicks up above the door handles, then flows smoothly into the rear body work. The striking LED tail lights are an updated take on those of the vintage Spider.
2017 FIAT 124 Spider Interior
FIAT offers three variations of the 124 Spider: the base Classica, the upscale Lusso, and the performance-focused Abarth. Our Lusso tester came equipped with features such as keyless entry and start, heated seats, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and the ParkView Rear Back Up Camera. FCA kept things simple with our review vehicle; the only option our car had was the $1,350 six-speed AISIN automatic gearbox.
The Miata DNA came through clearly in the 124 Spider’s cockpit. FIAT went swimming in a good gene pool. Although the Spider’s outer dimensions were on the small side, we never once felt cramped on the inside, whether the fabric top was up or down. The abundance of black all around us was brightened up by contrast stitching and metallic trim in various areas, such as around the easy-to-read gauges and on the steering wheel spokes and door grab-handles. The large dials for the HVAC controls and the gearshift were easy to reach, even without looking.
When it was time to put the top down, all we had to do was throw one latch between the two sun visors and gently push the folding ragtop behind us until it clicked into place. There was no need for the services – or added weight – of a motor. Lowering the lid was easy, and gave us almost immediate access to the sky above. At that point, the FIAT’s already comfortable amount of headroom became infinite. Carrying on a conversation – even at highway speeds – only required us to speak up slightly. The blat coming out of the dual exhausts was always noticeable, but never obnoxious.
2017 FIAT 124 Spider Performance
The similarities between the 124 Spider and the Miata end under the hood. Instead of a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter I4 with 155 horsepower and 148 lbft of torque, the FIAT roadster packs a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Displacement may be down, but output is up. The MultiAir Turbo power plant generates 160 horsepower and 184 lbft, which adds up to spirited acceleration. Once the turbo spools up and the tach needle swings past the 3,000 mark, that increased punch hits its hardest. We used the automatic’s fast-acting manual shifting mode to make that punch land right when we wanted it to.
Our frequent use of that feature and changing gears well north of 3,000 rpm meant that we averaged 21.6 mpg after 230+ miles of mostly city driving. The 124 Spider’s capable of achieving much higher numbers, though. The EPA says it can get 25 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined**. We had no qualms about shaving some digits off of that last number in the name of driving enjoyment.
Out on the highway, the Spider’s on-center steering was as solid as a rock. The sense of confidence that gave us stayed with us when we went into curves. The electric power assist system was nicely weighted without feeling heavy. We found the ride quality to be appropriately firm for a two-seater sports car. We never felt as if the suspension was punishing us for being in one, though. When the road in front of us led to a red light, the calipers clamped down on the 11-inch brake discs in a linear, predictable way. We felt more connected to the 124 Spider’s hardware than its software through the left pedal. That’s just the way we like it.
2017 FIAT 124 Spider Safety
Standard safety equipment on our Lusso review special included dual-stage front airbags, side airbags, active head restraints, and electronic stability control. FIAT offers a couple of packages that pile on a variety of safety and convenience features. It bundles the Blind Spot Monitoring System, Rear Cross Path Detection, ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, and other bits of tech into the available Safety & Comfort Collection. The Premium Collection keeps those driving aids and adds adaptive LED headlights with automatic leveling and LED daytime running lamps, as well as several convenience features.
2017 FIAT 124 Spider Overall
A motoring icon is back. The original FIAT 124 Spider has been gone for a while, but fortunately, whether you’re a member of this generation or an older person who’s a fan of the last version of the Italian two-seater, you have a chance to know what it’s like to own and drive the new FIAT 124 Spider. You won’t have to break the bank to do that, either. Prices for the 2017 FIAT 124 Spider start at $24,995*. The Lusso version has a base price of $27,495*; our Lusso tester carried a sticker price of $29,840, which included a $995 destination charge. That kind of money buys you an attractive roadster with nods to its past sculpted into its sheet metal, space and convenience engineered into its interior, and a healthy amount of get-up-and-go pumped into its turbocharged engine. You can see – and experience – what we’re talking about at an AutoNation FIAT dealership.
*MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.