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Car and Driver: How We’d Spec It: The Least Miata-Like, Most Italian Fiat 124 Spider


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Fiat 124 spider build

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Fiat’s 124 Spider is making a return to the U.S., but things are a bit different this time around. As in the 1960s and 1970s, it’s still a small, front-engine, rear-drive roadster, but now it takes its chassis from an unlikely source: Mazda. While the MX-5 Miata‘s Japanese bones underpin the Fiat’s curvy body, the 124 still packs plenty of Italian flavor. We played around with Fiat’s online configurator and found several ways to distinguish the 124 Spider from its sibling, as the Fiat offers myriad equipment and trim differences to complement its authentically Italian turbocharged engine and distinct looks.

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MODEL: 

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth (base price $29,190)

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Most obviously, the 124 Spider has a dedicated high-performance model that the Miata lineup lacks. It’s called the Elaborazione Abarth, a fancy-sounding Italian name that may over-promise a bit, given that its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder only puts out five horsepower more than the standard 124’s 160 horsepower. Even so, we chose the Abarth because it packs standard performance bits including a limited-slip differential, Bilstein dampers, and a front strut-tower bar. The Abarth also looks a hell of a lot cooler than the standard 124 Spider, with its more aggressive front fascia, black 17-inch wheels, and quad exhaust.

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Of course, we chose the standard six-speed manual transmission, in order to make the most of the 1.4-liter engine’s 165 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. We’re anticipating that this turbocharged powerplant will offer a significantly different character compared to the Miata’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder and, if we’re lucky, the 124 Abarth’s tuned exhaust will crackle and pop as much as it does in the Fiat 500 Abarth.

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Fiat 124 Spider build rear

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OPTIONS:

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Rosso Red paint ($0)

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Luxury Collection ($3995)

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Brembo Performance Brakes ($1495)

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At $29,120 with destination, the 124 Abarth may start out a bit cheaper than the roughly equivalent Miata Club, but that all changed when we loaded our Fiat roadster up with nearly every option available. We started with the no-cost Rosso Red exterior paint, fulfilling the Italian sports-car stereotype, and because red paint adds horsepower, right? To avoid too much red assaulting our eyeballs, though, we opted for a Nero Black interior. You may notice that we passed on the optional, $1195 Recaro seats trimmed in Alcantara. That’s because the Recaros don’t appear to offer any additional bolstering over the standard sport seats, at least based on the interior photos of the car. We’ll reserve final judgement until we can try out the Recaros for ourselves.

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You also can’t equip the 124 with its $3995 Luxury package if you opt for the Recaros, and we wanted extra goodies on our Fiat (our purist spirit doesn’t sing as strongly for this car as it does for the Miata). This package offers plenty of kit that you can’t get on the Miata Club, including leather seats, a Bose premium audio system, navigation, and sharp-looking adaptive LED headlights. Given the 124 Spider’s diminutive size, we don’t care as much about the included blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and park-assist system, but the package still strikes us as a pretty good deal.

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Fiat 124 Spider build interior

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Even though we’ll be a bit spoiled by all this luxury equipment, we still want our Fiat to be equipped to handle the occasional track day. As such, we sprung for the optional $1495 Brembo performance brakes that adds monoblock aluminum calipers with four pistons for improved performance. And the calipers are painted red, natch.

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All this adds up to $34,680, which sounds like a pretty penny for a tiny roadster, but this well-equipped Abarth only rings in at $1860 more than a Miata Club optioned with its BBS wheels and Brembo brake package. Although we’ve yet to get behind the wheel of the 124 Spider to see how it stacks up to the Miata dynamically, it strikes us a reasonable amount to pay for the Fiat’s sharp looks, turbo engine, and impressive load of luxury options.

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Fiat 124 Spider

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