Fiat’s 124 Spider Classica is a Basic Roadster You’ll Actually Want
The Fiat 124 Spider comes in three different trim levels. There is the base, entry-level Classica trim. There’s the more luxurious Lusso trim. Then, there’s the higher-performance-oriented Abarth model. I spent a considerable amount of time in San Diego last week putting the base Classica through the ringer, and not only is it a competent sports car, it’s likely the version you’ll actually want.
Car enthusiasts will likely want to know the differences between the 124 Spider and Mazda’s MX-5 Miata. They share a platform, after all. To address the elephant in the room early, so we can get on to the more important stuff, the MX-5 is an excellent sports car. The 124 Spider is an excellent sports car. They’re more different from each other than I initially thought they’d be, so drive both before buying. It’s just amazing that we have two affordable roadster options in a time where SUVs are king.
The Classica starts at just under $25,000 before shipping and handling and is definitely the enthusiast’s special. Standard is a 6-speed manual transmission — from the 3rd generation Miata, not the 4th — mated to a rear-wheel drive setup. The car has a 4-wheel independent suspension, because duh, and sticks to the road with 3-season performance tires.
The 1.4L turbocharged engine — straight from the 500 Abarth — is standard on all versions of the 124 Spider, and makes 160 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. While it won’t win in a drag race, it’s plenty of power for the tight canyon roads throughout Southern California. Also, with the top down, it effortlessly accelerates to go to prison speeds while still being able to carry on a conversation with a passenger.
The base car has a push button start, air conditioning, and a competent radio with AM, FM, and Bluetooth. The seats are pretty comfortable, and feature more of a different type of padding than the seats in the Miata. The trunk is big enough to fit a Ciminillo, but the passenger’s legroom is a bit cramped compared to the driver. Still, it’s a car that’s easy to put a decent amount of miles on.
When the roads get fun, the 124 Spider Classica delivers the smiles. The transmission shifts effortlessly with some of the shortest throws in the business. The clutch is easy to operate. In fact, this would be a great car to actually learn how to drive a manual transmission on, so skip the automatic even if you don’t know how to drive a stick.
The suspension loads up predictably, and body roll is kept in check — much better than the Miata. The car inspires confidence and doesn’t feel as edgy as the Miata does.
But I digress, because I’m talking about the Miata again.
The quality of the interior materials is good for a car of this price. The steering wheel feels right in the hands. The shifter is in a comfortable location. The top is easy to operate and is designed to be quiet when the roof is up. It has a spunky little engine and is oozing character.
For the enthusiast who wants an honest-to-goodness sports car experience, the Fiat 124 Spider — even in base Classica trim — is the way to go.
What do you think? Let us know over in the forums!
photos via [FCA]