Fiat 124 Spider Vs. Mazda MX-5 Miata
When FCA announced plans to revive the 124 Spider using Mazda’s platform for the new MX-5 Miata, we began wondering whether Fiat will resort to simple badge engineering or work on a design of its own. As spy shots of camouflaged prototypes started rolling in, it became clear that Fiat was working on a different body and planning to use an in-house powerplant. This was confirmed at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, where Fiat revived a nameplate it discontinued more than 30 years ago.
Now that we have already seen the new Fiat 124 Spider and we know most of the details around it, it’s time to compare it to the Mazda MX-5 Miata, from which it borrowed most of its underpinnings, and find out just how different they are.
In this comparison, we’ll take a closer look at the design, interior, and spec sheets of the two cars, and highlight the major differences between them. So far, we know the 124 Spider and MX-5 share almost the same underpinnings and a similar interior. You’ll have to keep reading to find out what sets them apart and which might be the best option if you’re in the market for a roadster.
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The only thing the two vehicles have in common is the roadster body style. Redesigned from a clean sheet, the 124 Spider is different from the MX-5 Miata from every angle. Basically, you wouldn’t be able to tell they’re actually related based on design alone.
So which one is the better looking roadster?
Well, that’s up to you to decide, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What I do know for a fact is that both are quite pretty.
The MX-5 Miata is a nice combination of Mazda's KODO design language and a number of unique features that we won't see on other models from the brand's lineup.
The MX-5 Miata is a nice combination of Mazda’s KODO design language and a number of unique features that we won’t see on other models from the brand’s lineup. It’s more aggressive than its predecessor, but at the same time retains the iconic Miata proportions and exudes lightness through every pore. Looking at it alone is enough to realize you’re dealing with a lightweight vehicle that doesn’t need a massive powerplant to give you thrills.
The 124 Spider, on the other hand, is about a different approach. While the fifth-generation MX-5 had less than three decades of heritage to rely on, Fiat designers were able to travel back to the mid-1960s to get inspiration for the Italian roadster. As a result, the 124 Spider sports a neo-retro design that harkens back to the original car, with various classic cues embedded at the front and the rear. As a classic car enthusiast, I find the new 124 Spider to be very exciting and if I were to make a pick, I’d definitely go for the Italian.
Although both cars ride on the same platform and have identical wheelbases (90.9 inches) and front and rear tracks (58.9 and 59.1, respectively), their exterior dimensions are far from similar.
The biggest disparity is noticeable as soon as take a look at their profiles, which reveal that the 124 Spider is longer than the MX-5, mostly due to a longer rear overhang.
The biggest disparity is noticeable as soon as take a look at their profiles, which reveal that the 124 Spider is longer than the MX-5, mostly due to a longer rear overhang. Specifically, the Italian roadster is five and a half inches longer than the Mazda. Fiat says that the extra inches helped increase cargo capacity, but it also impacts the roadster’s stance. Though it might not seem like a lot, those 5.5 inches bite into the roadster’s sporty appeal, making it seem less agile than the MX-5. On the other hand, it does add some elegance to the 124 Spider’s design, while also aiming it toward a different audience that the Miata.
The Fiat is also 0.2 inch wider than the Mazda at 68.5 inches and sits a tenth-inch lower at 48.5 inches. It’s not exactly obvious on paper, but when combined with the car’s longer body, these figurse make the 124 Spider sleeker than the Miata.
|Fiat 124 Spider||Mazda MX-5 Miata|
|Wheelbase||90.94 Inches||91.4 Inches|
|Overall Length||159.60 Inches||154.1 Inches|
|Overall Width||68.50 Inches||68.1 Inches|
|Overall Height||48.54 Inches||48.62 Inches|
While the exterior design and dimensions are significantly different, the interiors are pretty much identical. Fiat kept everything but the door panels and made minor tweaks here and there. Notable features that differ from the Miata’s include the leather-wrapped lower dashboard section, the slightly thicker, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the different fonts on colors of the instrument cluster.
All told, the 124 Spider's interior is in line with its exterior design, making it a more premium version of the Miata.
Although the infotainment touchscreen was also sourced from the MX-5, the surface it sits on received an additional insert that better integrates the screen into the dashboard’s design. More work was put into the door panels, which feature a new layout with revised handles and a reconfigured button cluster. Naturally, upholstery colors and leather options also differ.
Not surprisingly, headroom, legroom, and hip room are the same. The Fiat’s shoulder room is a tenth-inch smaller than the Mazda, but I doubt we’ll hear any complaints because of that.
All told, the 124 Spider’s interior is in line with its exterior design, making it a more premium version of the Miata. But not by much...
Gearheads who were fearing that the 124 Spider might get a Japanese drivetrain can now rest assured, as the Fiat has an entirely different engine than the Miata.
While the MX-5 is motivated by a naturally aspirated, 2.0-liter four-banger, the 124 Spider gained a turbocharged, 1.4-liter four-pot. The Fiat’s unit comes from the tiny but potent 500 Abarth, and cranks out 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Miata, on the other hand, comes with 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet on tap.
With five extra horses and 36 extra pound-feet at its disposal, the 124 Spider is obviously the more powerful machine
With five extra horses and 36 extra pound-feet at its disposal, the 124 Spider is obviously the more powerful machine, not to mention that thanks to its turbocharged engine, torque is available from only 2,500 rpm, whereas the Miata’s kicks in at 4,600 rpm.
This advantage, however, decreases dramatically once we take a look at the Italian’s curb weight. Tipping the scales at 2,436 pounds with a manual transmission and 2,476 pounds with an automatic, the Fiat is 104 and 95 pounds heavier than its Japanese sibling, respectively. As a result, power-to-weight ratios are actually very similar, with the Miata faring slightly better. There are no official performance specs as of this writing, but I expect both vehicles to hit 60 mph from a standing start in about 6.5 seconds. Needless to say, Whichever car wins in a drag race, will make it by only a few inches.
Although the engines are completely different, the transmissions aren’t, as the Fiat can be had with the same six-speed manual or six-speed automatic as the Mazda. The automatic has the same gearing as the MX-5’s but a different final drive ratio, while the manual’s ratios are geared lower due to the turbo engine’s rev range.
|Fiat 124 Spider||Mazda MX-5 Miata|
|Type and Description||In-line four-cylinder, liquid-cooled, turbocharged||SKYACTIV-G inline four-cylinder engine|
|Displacement||1.4 liter||2.0 liter|
|Power||160 HP||155 HP|
|Torque||184 LB-FT||148 LB-FT|
|Curb Weight||2,436 pounds||2,332 pounds|
Although pricing for the 124 Spider has yet to be unveiled, I know for a fact that the Fiat will be more expensive than the MX-5 Miata. The Japanese roadster retails from $24,915 in base trim and goes into $30,000 territory with the Grand Touring model. Available in two trim levels, the 124 Spider will likely start from around $28,000 and fetch as much as $34,000 with all the options.
Although most of our comparisons have a winner, I’m gonna let this one get away without having one. And that’s because, even though most customers will cross-shop the two, the 124 Spider and the MX-5 are actually different enough to compete in leagues of their own. Simply put, the Fiat is a more elegant and somewhat more upscale version of the Mazda. Also, because it hides a turbocharged engine under its hood, the 124 Spider is very likely to behave in a different manner on the road.
some will find the Fiat's neo-retro styling exciting, others will simply deem it ugly and prefer the MX-5's more exotic appearance.
Comparison tests will probably settle which is sportier, more comfortable, and better suited to hit the track without any modifications whatsoever, but at the end of the day, a number of other features will matter when signing a check at the dealership. Some will prefer the Miata’s lighter curb weight, while other will want a more premium interior and a bit of extra luggage space. Likewise, some will find the Fiat’s neo-retro styling exciting, others will simply deem it ugly and prefer the MX-5’s more exotic appearance.
Unless you buy one of these roadsters, it’s a battle no one will win, as this goes beyond numbers. Still, I wouldn’t mind reading which one you prefer and why. Let me know in the comments box below.