Fiat has unveiled a new two-seater roadster named 124 Spider at the annual Los Angeles Motor Show. The roadster was initially supposed to arrive as a modern-day Alfa Romeo Spider, but company boss Sergio Marchionne gave it to Fiat at the last minute in order to keep his promise that all upcoming Alfas will be built in Italy.
The 21st century 124 Spider is based on the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata that went on sale globally earlier this year. Visually, it stands out from its Japanese sibling thanks to a retro-inspired front fascia characterized by oval headlights with round LED daytime running lights, a hexagonal upper grille, and two power domes on the hood. The back end features rectangular tail lamps and a discreet spoiler built into the trunk lid, but the doors and the A-pillar are plucked directly from the Mazda parts bin.
The story is similar on the inside, where the biggest difference between the 124 Spider and the Miata is a Fiat emblem on the three-spoke steering wheel. Fiat’s new roadster features a driver-focused, back-to-the-basics cabin with an enthusiast-approved short-throw gear lever, an instrument cluster made up of two analog gauges and a configurable thin-film transistor screen, as well as an available tablet-like seven-inch screen that pops up from the top of the dashboard. Fiat explains the cabin is built using soft-touch materials for a more premium, upmarket feel.
The agreement between Mazda and Fiat says that the 124 Spider can’t use the Miata’s engine. Consequently, the Turin-based car maker has fitted the 2,436-pound (1,100-kilo) ragtop with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir engine that makes 160 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 184 lb-ft. of torque at 2,500 rpm. It’s the same engine used in a host of Fiat-Chrysler models — including the Fiat 500 Turbo, the Alfa Giulietta, the Lancia Delta, and the Jeep Renegade — but it’s been modified to be mounted longitudinally instead of transversally. The turbo four spins the rear wheels via either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic unit. Performance figures haven’t been published yet.
The European-spec 124 Spider will also be offered with a 1.4-liter MultiAir engine but its output is limited to 140 horsepower and 177 lb-ft. of torque. The four is linked to a six-speed manual transmission, and Fiat hasn’t revealed if buyers on the Old Continent will be able to order the U.S.-spec model’s six-speed automatic.
To put the above figures into perspective, the 2,332-pound (1,057-kilo) Miata is powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from the Mazda3 and tuned to deliver 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. It’s also available with either a six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic. It’s worth mentioning that the Miata is about five inches (nearly 13 centimeters) shorter than the 124 Spider.
Assembled by Mazda in Japan, the Fiat 124 Spider is scheduled to land in showrooms in the United States (where it will be branded a 2017 model) and in Europe next summer. Pricing information will be published closer to the Spider’s on-sale date.
The first 124 examples of the 124 Spider shipped to the U.S. will be part of a limited edition called Prima Edizione Lusso. The cars (pictured below) will all be finished in an eye-catching shade of blue called Azzurro Italia, they’ll be equipped with beige leather seats, and they’ll wear a numbered plaque on the dashboard. Prima Edizione Lusso buyers will also receive limited-edition items including “wearables and a poster,” according to Fiat.
Although Mazda has ruled out introducing a more powerful Miata, an Abarth-tuned version of the 124 Spider will likely be presented next year at the Geneva Motor Show. Details are still few and far between, but British magazine Autocar reports the Abarth model will boast brand-specific sheet metal on both ends, meaning it won’t simply be the 124 you see above fitted with a spoiler, side skirts and bigger alloys. Some sources claim Abarth’s Spider will use a tuned version of the Fiat-badged model’s 1.4-liter, while others speculate it will be fitted with a de-tuned version of the 1.7-liter turbo four that powers the Alfa Romeo 4C.