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  • 2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Posted on July 5th, 2017 ninarussin

    Millennial tribute to a classic roadster

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Fiat’s new two-seat convertible is a tribute to its most enduring model: the 124 Spider that debuted at the 1966 Turin auto show, produced through the mid-1980s. While the newest Spider takes styling cues such as its long sculpted hood, hexagonal grille and horizontal tail lamps from the original, there are some important differences.

    The 2017 model is a global car: a joint effort between Fiat and Mazda, based on the MX-5 Miata platform. The Spider is slightly larger than the MX-5 and has a bit more room inside. It also has a different engine: Fiat’s 164-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder block. The MX-5 comes with a two-liter naturally aspirated engine rated at 155-horsepower. Despite being smaller, the Fiat engine also develops more torque: 184 pound-feet as opposed to the Miata engine’s 148.

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    A high-performance Abarth edition adds four more horsepower to the Fiat engine.

    Base price for the Classica model is $24,995 excluding the $995 destination charge. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless start, Bluetooth-compatible radio, tilt steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lamps, power side mirrors and dual exhaust. Final MSRP is $25,990.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider

    Over the past week I had the opportunity to drive the Spider with the six-speed manual gearbox around the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area. While Fiat’s roadster is not a car for everyone, it offers driving enthusiasts a solid package at a price that won’t break the bank.

    Although buyers can opt for a six-speed automatic transmission, the manual gearbox seems to best capture the spirit of the original Spider, enabling drivers to better access power from the car’s turbocharged block. Hanging onto a lower gear, the Spider jumps off the line and offers robust acceleration in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway.

    The gearbox has plenty of range within each gear to function well during the daily commute. I spent some time in afternoon rush-hour traffic and found the clutch pretty-easy to live with. A short throw shift lever enables the driver to snap between gears when pushing the envelope on a winding two-lane road.

    Being the middle of the Phoenix, Arizona summer, I did most of the drive with the soft top in place. The base model does not come with a rearview camera or blind spot monitoring. As is typical with soft top cars, there are some large blind spots towards the back of the car. Over-the-shoulder visibility is good due to the lack of a B-pillar.

    In this part of the country, full-size trucks dominate area byways. I was happy to have daytime running lamps to make the pint-size Spider more visible. On a similar note, the car’s quick steering and peppy engine enabled me to get out of the way of drivers who might or might not be able to see me.

    The rear-wheel drive platform makes the Spider extremely well balanced front-to-back. Engineers utilized high-strength steel throughout the body to maximize torsional rigidity for better steering response.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of compact double wishbone setup in front and multi-link in the rear. A 30.8-foot turning circle makes it easy to park the Spider on the street. Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes stop the Spider in firm, linear fashion.

    As is typical with these types of cars, there is a considerable amount of road noise, especially on the highway. This shouldn’t bother the intended audience.

    Stylish interior

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider Fiat’s styling department infused the Spider interior with true European feel. A small storage shelf between the front seats holds a purse, small pack or computer bag.

    Because occupants sit low in the car’s frame, access and egress might be a challenge for some. Manual seat adjustments are easy to use but there’s no lower lumbar adjustment. Support was adequate for shorter drives but I would have liked more for trips lasting over an hour.

    Storage space in the trunk is limited, even with the top in place. There’s enough room for the weekly groceries, one or two modest-size pieces of luggage.

    Standard safety

    The Fiat 124 Spider comes with front and side airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring.

    Fiat builds the 124 Spider at Mazda’s Hiroshima, Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish, peppy two-seat roadster with excellent steering response.

    Dislike: Seats lack lower lumbar support. Limited cargo space.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Fiat
    Model: 124 Spider
    Year: 2017
    Base price: $24,995
    As tested: $25,990
    Horsepower: 160 HP @ 5500 rpm
    Torque: 184 lbs.-ft. @ 3200 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: N/A
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 26/35 mpg city/highway

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