|Positives: Fun as hell to toss around, highly maneuverable, a great analog driving experience for the money, echoes old Fiats in a good way|
|Negatives: Painfully low storage options, no telescoping steering wheel adjustment, turbo lag followed by a torque slap|
|Bottom Line: Though it's not as much fun as the Miata, it's still totally thrilling to drive, maximizing what little horsepower can do for a light curb weight. There's really nothing fancy about the base 124 Spider, but that's kinda why we love it so much. It's pure fun to drive and eschews the fanciness of pricier sports cars. We're glad this thing exists.|
Driving the 124 Spider every day was a reminder that old school is still better than tech'd out sports cars that are overpowered and too heavy to exploit on everyday roads. It really does keep your spirits high as you toss it around on your commute.
Ride Quality: Though this thing is tuned for sportiness, it's still pretty compliant over bumps. The smaller wheel diameter helps. We actually hit a bad pothole at 45 mph, and the tire didn't rupture, a total surprise.
Acceleration: 0-60 comes in about six seconds, so it's on the right side of quick. The 6-speed manual transmission lacks the precision of the Miata's, but it's still quite good with short throws and a chunky knob.
Braking: Braking is good but not great. We like the pedal feel, and the overall performance is progressive, but they could have more bite.
Steering: Steering is great. Plenty of feedback, and there's good effort.
Handling: It exhibits the same mild but very predictable body roll as the Miata, and the thing pivots around its long hood remarkably well. Everything feels very predictable, and you can drive it hard and fast without losing control.
The 124 Spider uses the exact same infotainment system as the Miata on which it's based. Other in-car tech is pretty low key.
Infotainment System: The 7-inch display screen is easy to decipher with its big icons and simple layout, but it tends to wash out in bright sunlight, which is pretty much anytime you have the top down.
Controls: The Mazda-style controller for the screen is one of the best with great actuation. The steering wheel controls (also Mazda) are very good, as well. The climate control knobs are huge and easy to operate while driving.
The overall look of the 124 Spider evokes some of the fullness and contours of the original from the '70s and '80s. It looks a couple of measures larger than the Miata. Some think it looks clunky and not nearly as sharp as its Japanse brother, but we like the difference.
Front: Our favorite view with its wide mesh upper and lower grilles, and the hood contours work nicely with the old-school style headlights that follow the shape of the original's housing shape, if not its actual round shape.
Rear: Though we like the contours of the rear haunches, the back end is a bit boring with its amorphous taillights (versus the rounded Miata's) and the small aperture exhausts.
Profile: The 124 Spider definitely looks fuller than the Miata here with its larger front and rear sections. It makes the greenhouse look a bit too small, but it still looks great from this view.
Cabin: The cabin is pretty low rent with dark cloth and plastics. The steering wheel hub with its sweet Fiat logo, and the matching shifter shape are nice touches. Other than that, it's not very dramatic.
It was easy for us to ignore the lack of good seat and steering wheel adjustability since we were having too much fun driving, but the 124 Spider just isn't made for big folks or long drives.
Front Seats: Though they're decently supportive, they lack some cushioning. The adjustability is poor because of the roadster setup.
Rear Seats: Not applicable. This is a two-seater only.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): it's pretty much what you expect in a cloth-top roadster. There's noise in the cabin, but it's not annoying. Build quality seems good. With manually-operated top down, the wind buffeting is well-done. Even at 85 mph, it's still not terribly windy inside.
Visibility: The long hood isn't obstructive, and sightlines are good all around with the top down. With the soft top deployed, it takes some neck craning to switch lanes due to the small side windows.
Climate: The thin center vents don't do a great job of blowing lots of cold air when the temps rise, but they're adequate.
The 124 Spider hasn't been tested by either entity, and the list of safety features is pretty low. Both it and the Miata, which also hasn't been tested, are niche cars, so crash testing typically isn't done for them.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTS Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: The 124 comes with an Enhanced Accident Response System that kicks in when an airbag deploys by cutting off fuel to the engine, flashing hazards, unlocking doors, and turning on the interior lights. There's also a tire pressure light.
Optional Tech: The backup camera helps tremendously when the top is up. There's not much else aside from this feature.
If you buy the 124 Spider to transport goods, you're gravely mistaken. It might house enough for a weekend trip for two but they have to be kep to a couple of bags.
Storage Space: There's not much here aside from a shallow armrest and a small cubby at the base of the center stack. The lockable compartment between the seats is helpful, but it's hard to reach. There are zero door pockets.
Cargo Room: The paltry 4.94 cubic feet of trunk space can hold about three grocery bags or a couple of soft duffel bags, enough for an overnight trip.
We're not the best judges in this particular case, since we drove it like madmen almost 100% of the time.
Observed: 22.1 mpg
Distance Driven: 291 miles
Driving Factors: We drove the 124 Spider hard pretty much all the time. The 124 is easy to modulate with its manual transmission, and you can drive it calmly or balls out with no problem.
The stock 4-speaker audio system delivers musical weak sauce. It sounds somewhat hollow, and has virtually no noticeable bass. We get that there's not a ton of cabin space for speakers, but couldn't they at least shoehorn two more speakers in? For $1,395 more, you could get navigation and a Bose premium system with 9-speakers and a subwoofer. It would be worth it to get this mediocre system out of here.