2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

The Fiat 124 Spider looks a lot like the Mazda MX-5 Miata. That’s because both are based on the same platform and built in the same plant in Hiroshima, Japan. Both are two-seat convertibles that will put a smile on your face on a sunny day!

The Spider has five more horsepower and is about 5.5 inches longer than the Miata. The trunk is a bit larger and the seats have a little more cushioning and support.

The rear-wheel-drive Spider was introduced for the 2017 model year and has very few changes for 2018. It’s available in Classica, Lusso and Abarth trims with starting prices ranging from $24,995 to $28,295, making it one of the most inexpensive sports cars on the market.

It’s powered by a turbocharged four cylinder 1.4-liter engine that makes 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Miata has a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that makes 155 hp and 148 lb.-ft. The Mazda is slightly quicker off the line because there’s no turbo lag. The Spider’s engine comes standard with a six-speed manual, or for $1,350 you can get a six-speed automatic. All in all, the Spider is a bit more comfortable as a cruiser while the Miata is a bit more energetic.

What’s not to like about driving a two-seater convertible? While the Spider doesn’t have screaming raw power, it has nimble handling, precise steering and stays planted when cornering.

EPA estimates for my tester are 25 mpg city and 36 mpg highway with a combined rating of 29. I got 28 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.

The convertible soft top goes up and down manually and it’s super easy. From the driver’s seat just flip the latch on the roof, pull the roof back and push it into place. It’s equally as easy to put the top back up and can also be done from the driver’s seat. Look ma, I can even put the top up and down with one hand!

Like the exterior, the interior is laid out in a similar fashion to its Miata cousin. The seats have more cushioning than the Miata and the cabin is slightly quieter due to more sound deadening materials, although there’s still a fair amount of noise as you’d expect in small convertible. Of course, you also know that there’s not a lot of room so taller and/or larger passengers are going to feel cramped.

Standard features include push-button start, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable seats, three-inch infotainment display, and Bluetooth.

Options include proximity key, rearview camera, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, sport seats with leather upholstery, Recaro leather-trimmed seats, seven-inch infotainment display, satellite radio, nine-speaker Bose sound system, rear parking sensors, adaptive headlights, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

The standard infotainment system is very basic. Even the upgraded system doesn’t have many features compared to many rivals. It is fairly user-friendly, with buttons and knobs available for several functions.

Reaching the controls can be a bit awkward when you have drinks in the removable cupholders; you have to be very careful not to bump the beverages.

Since there’s no back seat, it can be tough to find a place to stash small items. There’s no glove box or map pocket, and there’s really no place for your handbag when you have a passenger. There is a small bin between the two front seat backs.

The Spider’s trunk has 4.9 cubic feet while the Miata has 4.6. That gives you just enough room to squeeze in that extra small bag on your trip.

The good:

Fun, fun, fun

It’s a two-seater convertible that’s a blast to drive!

Inexpensive starting price for a sports car

Easy to put top up and down

Great fuel economy

The not-so-good:

Short on space, as you’d expect

Taller and larger passengers will feel cramped

Pretty basic interior

Pricing info:

My tester starts at $27,495. The Customer Preferred Package 225/comfort and convenience Group is $1,495 and adds blind spot and cross path detection, ParkSense rear park assist system, heated exterior mirrors, auto-dimming exterior mirror, auto-dimming rear view mirror, universal garage door opener and security alarm. The navigation and Sound Group is $1,395 and adds satellite radio, nine-speaker Bose audio system with subwoofer, and GPS navigation. The Visibility Group is $995 and adds LED headlamps, adaptive front headlamps, automatic headlamp leveling system, headlamp washer and LED daytime running lamps. The six-speed automatic transmission and leather-wrapped shift knob adds $1,350. Destination charge is $995 bringing the grand total to $33,725.

Bottom line:

If you want an affordable and fun roadster convertible that’s perfect for summer driving, you’d be wise to check out the Spider and the Miata. Both will provide lots of smiles with the wind in your hair!

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