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Fiat 124 Spider or Mazda MX-5 – who got it right?

Miata-based Fiat 124 Spider was the most anticipated debut at the LA auto show

Published: November 27, 2015, 4:35 AM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 10:28 AM

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

Based on the number of journalists stacked dozens of rows deep awaiting the reveal of the Fiat 124 Spider, it was the most anticipated vehicle premiere at the 2015 Los Angeles auto show. And perhaps the most controversial.

While much of the media's response was expectedly positive, the new 124 Spider also drew its share of criticism, primarily concerning its looks.

2016 Mazda MX-5

Given that it's based on the Mazda MX-5 (shown here), it's a known entity in many respects. Certainly it has a sound architecture at its core. Fiat and Mazda agreed to co-develop the car early in its gestation, with Mazda taking the lead engineering role.

At that time, the Italian version was slated to wear an Alfa Romeo badge, with the decision to allot it to Fiat coming later in the timeline.

Its off-the-shelf FCA corporate 1.4-litre MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder engine is equally a known quantity, already being used in Fiat, Dodge and Jeep nameplates.

It will be interesting to see how it compares with the Miata's 2.0-litre non-turbo powerplant in terms of performance and fuel efficiency. The Fiat four 's peak numbers top those of the Mazda – 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque – although it's not known for a lot of low-end grunt, necessitating some finesse to get off the line smoothly.

More controversial is the 124's styling. While it includes some clear cues that pay homage to the car's namesake, the overall form doesn't necessarily marry well with the Miata's proportions.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

Most to grating to these eyes, however, is the form and texture of the upper grille, which resembles nothing more than a coarse cheese grater. Had the new 124's designers simply replicated the lower grille's texture up top it would have been a more cohesive and pleasing look.

Overall, the 124 Spider's styling seems to be to the Miata as the Saturn Sky's was to the Pontiac Solstice. It's OK, but it would have looked better if the other wasn't there first.

As for how it drives, we'll just have to wait a bit to find out. The MX-5 is already on the market but the Fiat 124 Spider won't arrive until next summer.