2020 FIAT 124 Spider

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2020
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2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Brian León Brian León Contributing Writer
October 25, 2019

Buying tip

The 124 Spider is one of the slowest-selling vehicles in America, so look for a great deal at your nearest Fiat dealership.

features & specs

Abarth Convertible
Classica Convertible
Lusso Convertible
MPG
26 city / 35 hwy
MPG
26 city / 35 hwy
MPG
26 city / 35 hwy
MSRP
NA
MSRP
NA
MSRP
NA

It’s fun and it’s flawed, but we still love the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider’s Italian looks and Japanese build quality.

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider blends 1960s Italian sports car heritage with Japanese know-how and quality. A turbocharged engine and the chassis from the Mazda MX-5 Miata make this stylish convertible a great buy, though it’s still exceedingly rare on the road. We give it 5.6 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the 124 Spider gets only some additional scorpion graphics for the Abarth model.

Built in Japan but styled in Italy, the “Fiata” blends the Miata’s puny proportions with throwback looks to the original 124 Spider from the ‘60s to the ‘80s for a classier blend than its Mazda sibling. However, it also faces many of the shortcomings the Miata has, including a cramped, noisy cabin that’s styled well enough but features some flimsy materials.

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Replacing Mazda’s naturally aspirated engine (which we prefer), Fiat throws in a 1.4-liter turbo-4 with 164 horsepower that yields mixed results. While the Mazda is faster now thanks to a power bump, the Fiat still has some enjoyable turbo boost, but lacks low-end power that makes it harder to get up to speed out of a corner or on the highway. Still, it’s hard to argue with rear-wheel drive, a sub-2,500-pound weight, and a 6-speed manual (or 6-speed paddle-shifted automatic, if you don’t like fun as much). An Abarth model adds an exhaust and other fun bits from the Fiat brand’s tuning division, but doesn’t actually represent a bump in power, which is a letdown considering how fun the 500 Abarth is over the standard car.

With Bluetooth and an ungainly touchscreen infotainment system made by Mazda, the 124 Spider is well-equipped no matter the model, and higher trims add mostly cosmetic or some performance bits. Fuel economy is also impressive at around 29-30 mpg combined, but the 124 Spider lacks crash test data because of its low sales volume, and no automatic braking system is available.

7

2020 FIAT 124 Spider

Styling

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider blends modern and retro in a well-proportioned sports car package.

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider does “modern retro” right with looks that throwback to the original and modern details and amenities. We give it 7 out of 10 here, with two extra points above average for its body. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Wearing round(ish) headlights, wide taillights, and the trademark twin-cam hood bump design, the 124 Spider sports just enough tributes to the original that was sold from 1966 to 1985. It’s a more sedate package than the Miata on which it’s based, but that will undoubtedly appeal to some buyers who find the Mazda too cartoonish. It looks great in either Lusso trim with aluminum wheels and brown leather, or in sporty Abarth form with a black hood and wheels along with those cool Scorpion badges and graphics.

The interior is essentially the same as a Miata but with unique upholstery options. It’s laid out well enough, and features soft-touch plastic in plenty of places—not quite enough places to our fingers, and we’d prefer the body-color door trim of the Mazda to the similar black bits in the Fiat.

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7

2020 FIAT 124 Spider

Performance

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is a blast to drive, whether within the speed limit or on a racetrack.

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is a blast to drive with its turbo-4 and sweetly tuned handling. We give it 7 out of 10 here, with two points above average for excellent handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Perhaps the 124 Spider’s biggest issue is that the Mazda MX-5 Miata exists at all. Sure, the Fiat wouldn’t exist without it, but the Mazda features slightly tighter driving dynamics and a more powerful engine that’s more engaging to wring out.

Fiat replaces Mazda’s powerplant with a 1.4-liter turbo-4 from the FCA corporate stable, making 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, or 164 horsepower in the Abarth model. If 4 hp doesn’t sound like much of an improvement for the “performance” model, it’s not. But the better exhaust, black graphics, and scorpion badges almost make up for it. Acceleration to 60 mph takes about seven seconds, but this engine’s turbo lag is less satisfying than the smoother power the Miata delivers.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and provides slick, short shifts with a light clutch that’s a breeze to operate. If you hate fun or can’t drive stick, there’s also a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters that isn’t as much of a downgrade as it would seem.

Rear-wheel-drive, tidy dimensions, and a sub-2,500-pound weight make for a joy of a sports car, and the 124 Spider is at home on a twisty road or even a racetrack. The old adage that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow rings true.

One advantage over the Miata is the suspension tuning for longer journeys, which is more compliant to fit with the Fiat’s more reserved image. The Abarth model is closer in spirit to the Miata, given its additional strut tower brace and Bilstein shocks.

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4

2020 FIAT 124 Spider

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is comfortable enough for short drives, but cargo and storage space are laughably small.

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is geared better for comfort than its Mazda sibling, but it’s still best for shorter trips. We give it 4 out of 10 here, with a point for its supportive seats but with two taken back for its tiny trunk and minimal utility. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Under $30,000 the number of two-seat cars can be counted on one hand, and the 124 Spider is among them. Those two seats are plenty comfortable and supportive, but the cabin can be cramped for taller or wider occupants, especially with the cloth roof in place.

The interior comes up short in storage space too. It has only tiny cubbies between the seats and no glove compartment. Two movable cupholders are laughable in their simplicity too, and are often best stowed away if not used, as they can cut into legroom.

Interior material quality is generally superior to the Mazda with soft-touch plastics and nicer leather throughout, but we wish the Miata’s body-color door panels had carried over to the Fiat too, at least as an option.

At just under 5 cubic feet, the tiny trunk barely holds a single bag, but it’s slightly larger than that of the Miata thanks to a wider rear end.

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2020 FIAT 124 Spider

Safety

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider hasn’t been crash-tested and doesn’t offer automatic braking.

No crash-test scores exist for the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider, and without automatic emergency braking available as an option, we’re unable to give it a score or recommend it for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The NHTSA and the IIHS have left the 124 Spider alone because of its low sales volume, but with the average vehicle size on U.S. roads increasing every day, some will find its diminutive size unappealing. Blind-spot monitors, rear parking sensors, and rear parking assist are all available, but automatic emergency braking is nowhere to be found. Even on a sports car, we consider this feature to be essential.

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4

2020 FIAT 124 Spider

Features

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider has the necessary features, but lacks the latest infotainment features.

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is unburdened by fancy technology or super luxury features, as a good sports car should be. We give it 4 out of 10 here; it lacks standard automatic emergency braking, for one, and its infotainment system gives us fits. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base Classica model includes manually-adjustable seats, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, cruise control, keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels, a four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with redundant and clunky dial-based controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.

Lusso Spiders get automatic climate control, 17-inch alloys, heated leather seats, and fog lights, while LED headlights, navigation, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system are available.

The enthusiast in us longs for the Abarth trim, which features scorpion badges, a limited-slip differential and Bilstein shocks, sport mode on automatic-equipped vehicles, firmer suspension tuning, a unique steering wheel and gear shifter, and black wheels and graphics. Sure, it only gets 4 additional horsepower, but with a raunchier exhaust, it’s much more fun overall.

Other options include rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, and heated side mirrors, but no automatic braking system is available.

The 124 Spider tops out around $35,000 and starts at around $26,000. Its warranty coverage goes for four years or 50,000 miles.

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2020 FIAT 124 Spider

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Fiat 124 Spider is plenty efficient thanks to a small turbo engine and low overall weight.

Thanks to a thrifty engine and feather-light weight, the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider performs admirably in the fuel economy department. It’s a 6 out of 10 for gas mileage. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the EPA rates the 124 Spider at 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined for manual-equipped models and 25/36/29 mpg for those with the automatic transmission. Premium fuel is required for the Fiat’s turbo engine, however, contrary to the Mazda’s regular fuel.

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5.6
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety N/A
Features 4
Fuel Economy 6
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