Whether you go with the Fiat 124, or the Mazda MX-5… you’re getting the real-thing. And you’re part of the resistance, who’s NOT succumbing to asphyxiation by crossover & fake SUV. Throwing the top back at 25mph on a whim is a therapy that other cars, even other convertibles, can’t replicate. But the one you pick (Fiat or Miata) – boils down to personal preference. Me? I’m constantly dancing between the two. And I don’t know if I could honestly ever make a final choice. It might just come down to price & timing in the end.
The 124 comes with Fiat’s 1.4-liter turbo, versus the Miata’s naturally aspirated 2.5. The 1.4-turbo engine is zippy, it’s a TON of usable/enjoyable fun in a daily commute, and it fills that ‘turbo void’ that a lot of us feel in the Miata. However, even with the turbo under the hood, the 1.4 only makes about 15 more horsepower than Mazda’s engine… and the Fiat weighs about 100lbs more. So even though it’s kind of a wash, the turbo does add a fun element to the drive. When the 124 comes on boost, it just feels right. The drawback is, that tiny little turbo wheezes out of juice pretty quickly, and boost is gone just as quickly as it came. But hey, that’s why we have an aftermarket, right? And a turbocharged engine will wake up fast, with just a few aftermarket modifications.
My only concern, is that in the future, it might be hard to get parts/maintenance on the Fiat motor versus the Mazda motor. And – the aftermarket will probably end up swaying to the Mazda side, so you might end up having a huge aftermarket that almost works for your Fiat.
This particular 124 Abarth was an automatic. I for one, can’t fully understand why Fiat would make the Abarth in an automatic. To me, it seems like the Abarth nameplate should be reserved for manuals & the most performance-minded buyers. And to throw an auto in an Abarth, kind of tarnishes the nameplate a little bit. But… even with the automatic transmission & paddley shifters, I can quietly admit that the car is still a whole lot of fun. Would I buy this car in auto? Not me. But is it perfect for the right type of customer? Yeah for sure.
So when making the choice between the 124 or the MX-5, here’s another consideration. My wife absolutely fell in love with the Fiat 124 Abarth, whereas she has little-to-no interest in the Miata. That was interesting to me. She knows they’re the same car, but she frankly doesn’t care. And here’s why: The Fiat 124 Abarth is a head turner. It’s a rare sight to see. Neighbors will come over in curiosity. People pause & investigate it when it’s parked. A car enthusiast knows it’s the same damn chassis as a Miata, but to the average Joe/Jane, the Fiat carries a certain intrigue, whereas the Miata, just doesn’t. Even though the windows in the Fiat 124 are stamped with MOPAR, my wife still got the feeling that she was driving a little Italian sports car. And it made her feel good. It made her happy. And you know what… perception is reality!
It’s pretty cool to have hands/minds from Japan, Italy, AND America all on one car. No love lost there!