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2020 Fiat 124 Spider Review

You won’t find a lot of air between the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider and its fraternal twin, the MX-5 Miata from Mazda. Fiat has built a little more continental flair into the 124 Spider and replaced the Miata’s traditional 4-cylinder engine with a turbocharged one, but most of the other mechanicals are the same. Yet they drive somewhat differently. The Fiat just seems to have a bit more attitude.

In the 124 Spider, you get the best of both worlds: Mazda quality and Fiat playfulness.

What’s New for 2020?

Fiat made no changes for 2020. See the 2020 Fiat 124 Spider models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Fun and easy to drive
  • One-hand top operation
  • Superior manual transmission
  • Mazda reliability
  • Punchy turbo engine
  • Snarling Abarth exhaust

What We Don’t

  • Cramped interior space for the passenger
  • Smallish trunk
  • Dash-mounted screen washes out in sunlight

How Much?

$26,885-$30,885

Fuel Economy

Every 124 Spider comes with a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, but the output differs slightly by trim level. The Classica and Lusso trim levels produce 160 horsepower, while the Abarth trim is good for 164 hp. Each engine produces 184 lb-ft of torque.

Fuel economy with the standard 6-speed manual transmission is 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving. With the optional 6-speed automatic transmission, the 124 Spider returns 25 mpg city/36 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

There are three trim levels available: Classica, Lusso and Abarth. Prices include the $1,495 factory delivery fee.

Standard equipment on the Classica trim ($26,885) includes 16-in wheels, cruise control, air conditioning, adjustable under-thigh support on the driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-only steering wheel, Bluetooth capability, Fiat Connect 7.0 with a 7-in touchscreen, a rearview camera and a 4-speaker sound system with a traditional radio interface sourced from Mazda. The Technology Group adds a year of SiriusXM service, proximity entry and satellite radio.

Available as a $995 option only on the Classica, the Urbana Edition includes Piano Black exterior accents, 17-in aluminum wheels, leather seating with microfiber inserts and gray interior accents with red stitching.

The Lusso trim ($29,660) includes the Technology Group items plus 17-in wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, automatic wipers, automatic climate control and heated leather seats.

The Abarth trim ($30,885) gets a bit more power, a sport-tuned suspension, a quad-tip exhaust, a limited-slip differential, a strut tower brace for improved handling, a Sport driving mode, special styling, a sport steering wheel and sport seats upholstered in a leather and microfiber mix. Upgraded Brembo performance brakes can be added to the Abarth.

The Lusso and Abarth are eligible for a number of optional packages. The Navigation and Sound Group adds integrated navigation and a 9-speaker Bose sound system. The Convenience Group adds rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems, a security alarm, heated mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Visibility Group adds adaptive LED headlamps with washers and automatic leveling. The Lusso’s Red Top Edition includes a red cloth roof and the contents of the Visibility Group and the Navigation and Sound Group.

Safety

Every 2020 Fiat 124 Spider comes standard with a backup camera, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control and front and side airbags. Optional content on the Lusso and Abarth trims includes parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic warning system.

The 124 Spider has not been crash-tested by a third party. Neither has the MX-5 Miata.

Behind the Wheel

So much about what makes the Mazda MX-5 Miata such a wonderful car to drive carries over to the 124 Spider. Fiat knew where to leave well enough alone. The sensational feel of the steering transmits every nuance of the road to your hands. The snick-snick manual transmission is easy on newbies and rewarding to veterans. The lightweight rear-wheel drive setup encourages you to fling the 124 Spider about, whether on a mountain road or zipping through town.

Yet there are key differences. The most obvious is under the hood. The Miata’s free-revving naturally aspirated 4-cylinder is replaced by Fiat’s small, turbocharged 4-cylinder. The Fiat engine is a little less zingy on the top end of its rev range and can’t quite match the Miata’s superlative throttle response, but the turbo’s greater power and torque push you into your seat with enough extra punch that it’ll feel a bit quicker. The Abarth’s louder quad exhaust adds a little extra spice to the proceedings, as well. The 124 also has subtle suspension differences that make it a bit more comfortable than the Miata (though less so with the Abarth) and more controllable at the limit (with all 124s).

Inside, the 124 is virtually identical to the MX-5 apart from the badge on the wheel and the seat upholstery. (Leather is more widely available in the Fiat.) That’s a great thing, as the quality is excellent, although Mazda’s tech interface is less user-friendly than Fiat-Chrysler’s touchscreens.

There’s also no getting around how tiny the cabin is. A 6-footer can technically fit comfortably in the driver’s seat, but the passenger footwell is smaller than the driver’s and space is therefore poor for most. There’s also very little space around the driver, with the windshield and rear window closer to you than in any other car. With the roof up, it’s claustrophobic. Luckily, lowering the roof requires you to only undo a latch, flip the roof back and tap it into its locked position behind you. Putting it back up is almost as easy and can be done with minimal effort while inside.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata — It’s about 85 percent the exact same car but with a different engine, different styling and less warranty coverage. It’s also available in the RF body style, which isn’t available on the 124 Spider. You might or might not like it better.

2020 Toyota 86 — It’s not a convertible, but the 86 and its twin, the Subaru BRZ, are the closest you’ll get to the 124’s lightweight RWD setup.

Used Porsche Boxster — The higher price means that you’ll likely need to look at used versions, but that’s OK, as the Boxster has been one of the most fun and rewarding cars on the market for decades. Porsche also has an excellent certified pre-owned car program.

Autotrader’s Advice

How much are you planning to drive your 2020 Fiat 124 Spider? If you’re just looking for a cost-effective weekend toy, there’s little reason to spend extra for the niceties included on the upper trim levels. The Classica is far from basic, and you’ll get virtually the same joyful driving experience. If you want some extra touches, bigger wheels and a bit of leather inside, pony up the $995 for the Urbana Edition. Otherwise, if you’re OK with paying a little more, go for the Abarth. It looks and sounds cooler, and when we’re talking about sports cars, that counts for a lot. Find a Fiat 124 Spider for sale

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