There are not many affordable sports cars out there and so when Fiat re-introduced the 124 Spider in 2017 it was met with immediate interest. This time out though it’s with a joint venture between Fiat and Mazda’s MX-5 Miata.

Mazda is manufacturing the Spider alongside its own Miata in Japan and the two are similar in many ways. The Fiat however retains its own engine, transmission and suspension.

Pros:

Stylish exterior

Refined interior

Turbo power

Cons:

Limited cargo

Tiny cabin

Limited dealer network

The Spider’s storied past dates to the mid 60’s when it and a number of other cars were plagued with mechanical issues. Fiat manufactured the Spider in Turin, Italy and later in the same plant as a re-badged Pininfarina Azzurra. Production ceased in 1985 after sales of 198,000 cars.

Fast forward to 2017 with the current generation’s front engine, rear wheel drive powered by a 1.4-liter turbo four cylinder. The Spider is an attractive two-seater that comes standard with a six-speed manual gearbox.

While the Spider and Miata are similar, we think the Spider’s front grille, projector lamps, LED tail lamps and styling cues make it a standout compared with the Miata.

We found its convertible top is a breeze to operate. A simple latch at center windshield and rear window raise and lower the soft top in a few seconds with little effort. And to enjoy this sports car you want the top down as often as possible, especially if you are over six feet.

The Spider is available in three trim levels: Classica ($26,885), Lusso ($29,640) and Abarth ($30,885).

We would forego the base trim and opt for the Lusso, our test car for the week. The Classica lacks essential items and has a miniature sized three-inch display screen. Enough said.

On the other hand, the Lusso and more powerful Abarth have available option packages that will not break the bank. Each includes leather and a seven-inch display screen as standard equipment.

Our loaded tester added optional equipment including blind spot monitors, cross path detection, navigation, nine speaker Bose sound, adaptive and automatic headlamp leveling and power washers totaling $3,785 bringing the out the door price to $33,425.

The Fiat is said to be more refined than the Mazda and we would agree. On the road, the Fiat has added sound deadening material for a quiet ride with the soft top in its upright position.

We found the turbo power provided a spirited ride within gear mid-ranges but a heavy pedal dropped thrust before redline was reached. To be fair, the Spider and Miata are fun cars to drive but neither is designed for Porsche-like performance or price for that matter.

The Spider is favored as a refined roadster while the Miata is said to be the quicker of the two.

To offset reliability concerns, the Spider comes with a better limited warranty and lengthier roadside assistance than its Mazda counterpart. Be sure to test drive both extensively before making your decision.

(Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net)

What was tested:

2020 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

Engine:1.4-liter turbocharged four cylinder, 160 horsepower, 184 lb-ft torque

EPA mileage: 26 city, 35 highway, 30 combined

Assembled: The Fiat 124 Spider is assembled at a Mazda facility in Hiroshima, Japan; U.S. / Canadian parts content – 0 percent; major source of foreign parts, Japan – 75 percent, Italy – 20 percent; country of origin – engine – Italy and transmission – Japan.

Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have not rated the Fiat 124 Spider.

Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile bumper to bumper; 4-year/50,000-mile drivetrain.

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