Last year we were graced with the all new Mazda Miata MX-5, one that brought back what made the original so great. It was smaller, lighter and more raw than previous generations, a feat never before seen in the little MX-5s 27 year history. Over the years the Miata, like many cars, had become a bloated, over complicated and an excessively over optioned car. By 2015 the car denied its heritage like a rebellious teenager trying to forget their roots. No longer is that the case. The little Miata not only learned to accept its place, it played to its strengths.
The Miata has long been considered one of the ultimate driver’s cars. On paper it is nothing extraordinary, but to pilot it does everything you could ask and a little more. But to me it has always lacked a little something… soul. It’s so well engineered and mechanically refined that it has no qualms, no quirks and lacks basic character. Its like a yes man, always telling you what you want to hear, afraid to let you down in any way. But that is all about to change…
Enter the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. When Fiat and Mazda agreed to share Mazda’s Chassis design, it was with the understanding that Fiat delivered the engine and the body to the assembly plant in Hiroshima, Japan. And boy did they deliver.
If the Italian manufacturers know one thing, that’s how to bring a vehicle to life. Although both the MX-5 and the Spider share a lot of the same components, including the entire chassis, the results couldn’t be more different. While the body is a homage to the 124 Spider of old with a sleek modern twist, the engine is a modern 1.4L turbocharged plant with Fiat’s MultiAir technology, helping produce a respectable 164hp & 184lb-ft of torque. With some slight interior revisions we are left with much more than a Miata, what we have is a piece of art.
On paper, the MX-5 is better in every conceivable way. It’s faster, Lighter, and cheaper; but as an enthusiast there is so much more then bench stats. Enthusiasts want a car that they can relish even when stationary and the MX-5 just isn’t that. The Spider is beautifully imperfect, taking its imperfections and throwing them in your face like a true Italian. It’s quirky, and even slightly daft, but that is its charm.
For most, the MX-5 is the car that makes more sense. It’s practical, it’s entertaining, and it gets the job done. Perfect for the person that wants an escape from the 9-5. The Spider is for the percentage of people that want a car that speaks to them. It doesn’t just drive your body it stirs your soul. The Spider will not adhere to the dreaded 9-5 but blatantly breaks the mold. It’s smaller forced induction engine requires more input to generate the same speed, while the handling is slightly heavier due to its added weight, requiring more force to be applied. It’s almost as if the Spider is egging you on, making you earn it. In place of the refined hum of the MX-5 you get a snarling growl from the exhaust, rewarding you for every press of the accelerator. While body roll is lessened and steering not as twitchy, the Spider allows even the most novice of drivers to feel comfortable navigating the twisties.
All in all where the Mazda asks for your permission, the Fiat demands your attention. Combining this character with classic styling Fiat managed to turn your weekend warrior into your everyday pride & joy. A true enthusiast’s dream car.
No matter which car fits you best, there is no denying Italy makes imperfections into art, just like this Fiat 124 Spider.