2017 Fiat 124 Spider

SAN DIEGO — This summer, nearly 50 years after the original Pininfarina-styled Fiat 124 Spider roadster launched in Turin, Italy, Fiat revives the legendary nameplate. The original Fiat 124 Spider came to the United States in 1968, and 170,000 were sold when it was discontinued in 1983. There are 8,000 still registered in the U.S. today and 40 percent of those are owned by millennials and Gen Xers.

That 124 Spider was a front-engine, rear-drive two-seat roadster that was as charming and lovable as Italian flair can get. Designers of the new 124 Spider went to great lengths to re-establish that look, feel and thrilling drive experience.

For its product, the folks at Fiat looked east, to the people who know a little bit about small roadsters — namely, Mazda, who has put nearly a million MX-5 Miatas on the road over the past 26 years. The new 124 is basically a Miata, re-skinned and with an Italian accent. The vehicles are built alongside each other in Hiroshima, Japan.

Outside, the look is classic Italian. The grille is hexagonal with honeycomb mesh, flanked by deep-set headlamps with LED surrounds. The rear makes a strong presence, but reminds me more of a Viper.

Inside, the interior looks as though it was lifted intact from the Miata, but with Fiat badging. We give the nod to Fiat for upgraded leathers and materials, however. Seat trim is available in either black or saddle. We especially like the speakers in the headrests. Opening and closing the convertible top is one of the best features, and can be easily handled with one hand from either front seat.

The Spider is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with up to 164 horsepower, connected to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Handling is crisp, the ride a bit on the soft side for a sports car, and power surprisingly excellent.

The Spider is available in three trim levels: Classica, Lusso and Abarth, all priced under $30,000. There’s also a special launch edition – Prima Edizione Lusso in a unique blue color, priced at $35,000 with all the options — limited to just 124 models.

Vital Stats

Price: $24,995 - $29,545
Price as Tested: $30,540
Seating: 2
Engine: 1.4-Liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 160 hp
Fuel Economy: 26-MPG City – 35-MPG Highway

Fab Features:

Italian styling and flair
Bargain pricing
Begs to be pushed hard

— Jim Prueter