Awards Car of the Year News

Fiat 124 Spider: 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender

Different. But Better?

Different. But Better?

We Like: Its style and personality differentiation.

We Don’t Like: The turbo lag and heavier nose; different doesn’t mean better.

Our selfish love of little roadsters almost earned the Fiat 124 a finalist berth. Potential rationalizations included Ed Loh’s contention that the handling was less darty than the donor Mazda MX-5’s (while remaining equally fun to drive) and Angus MacKenzie’s praise of the Fiat’s ride quality (asterisked to note some higher-speed float).

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica front three quarter in motion 02

Chris Walton proclaimed the Fiat “an ideal driving-school car that rewards sticking to the tenets of performance driving while amplifying the consequences of diverging from them.” Chris Theodore and Scott Evans said that although the turbo powertrain suffers some lag, which costs it about a half-second relative to the Miata’s 0–60 dash, its midrange thrust would erase this deficit on the real-world loop.

Many preferred the 124’s styling, including Alisa Priddle and Mark Rechtin, who singled out the view over the longer, more substantial hood. But Jonny Lieberman called it “a wonderful car let down by a grotesque front end,” adding a play on the automaker’s acronym: “Face-lift It Again, Tony.”

Then our inner grownups crashed the party. Kim Reynolds observed the Spider understeered turning right on the figure eight but drifted in the left turn—perhaps a consequence of the heavier iron-block engine upsetting the Mazda’s nearer-perfect weight balance? Also, the engine’s non-linear torque characteristics and lower redline represent retrograde steps in the Engineering Excellence category, and its lower EPA ratings cost it Efficiency points.

As our judges found few attributes where the Fiat soundly trumped its Mazda twin, we couldn’t justify advancing the Spider to the finals.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider (Classica)
BASE PRICE $25,990
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible
ENGINE 1.4L/160-hp/184-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 2,420 lb (54/46%)
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 159.6 x 68.5 x 48.5 in
0-60 MPH 6.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.0 sec @ 92.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 115 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.8 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/96 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.66 lb/mile