Step back and reconsider what you might have heard from the mainstream automotive journalists… the Fiat 124 Spider is more fun than the Mazda MX-5. And I’m at least 87% sure of that.
Reality is: most old-school automotive journalists fell in love with the Miata/MX-5 28 years ago, and that love still runs deep. In other words, they’re loyal. And it doesn’t hurt/help that most of them probably race Miatas on the weekend. They love & defend the MX-5; it’s the original. I understand the loyalty, but maybe just maybe, they have blinders on a little bit.
And of course – if you’re looking for ways that the Mazda MX-5 is better, I’m sure you’ll find valid reasons. Like Car & Driver who said this:
“Below 2500 rpm, the (Fiat) engine appears to run on Sleepytime tea. A saunter from 30 to 50 mph in sixth gear takes 13.6 seconds, almost three seconds longer than the Miata’s time…”
Question: WHO IN THE HELL tries to take a small displacement turbocharged car from 30-to-60 in 6th gear – WITHOUT DOWNSHIFTING?! Who does this?!
Either A) Someone who’s only driven Corvettes. Or B) someone who’s gone to one too many Mazda dinner banquets. Either way, that’s about the dumbest test of a car I’ve ever heard of.
What Fiat/FCA did – is take an MX-5, which is already spot-on, and put a turbo motor in it. Boom more fun. Just like that.
Ask yourself, do you want the Miata without the turbo, or with the turbo?
No matter what autocrossers say, the MX-5 lacks sexiness in the engine – like a turbo, or vtec. Not necessarily because it ‘needs more power’… but because it need more personality.
There is nothing to anticipate when you put your foot down in an MX-5. No ‘waaaaaait for it’. And that’s the type of thing that calculates to REAL FUN in the real world… not theoretical track day semantics. The MX-5 shines in its chassis, not necessarily its motor. The Fiat takes all the best ingredients, and smashes them together.
Look seriously – before I drove this car, I had almost mind-blanked on the 124 Spider entirely. Meaning if I was in the market for a small RWD sports car, I would have driven the 86 & the MX-5… and made a decision based on those two cars alone. But the 124 Spider is a hidden treasure! Yep you can find it in the women’s section of Bloomingdales between the perfume & powdered foundation.
I joke, because when Fiat brought over this hairdresser-edition Rosso red 124 Spider with tan interior & an AUTOMATIC… I was embarrassed to put on chap stick in it. Seriously, I drove around with chapped lips (and chap stick in my pocket) the entire first day. But on day-2 when I got the 124 out on the backroads & the traffic broke… I had more fun driving it than the MX-5 Club. Trust me, I’m as surprised as you are. You might not hear/see much marketing about Fiat’s 124 Spider… but Fiat might also not want to bite the hand that’s feeding it (aka Mazda).
What I mean to say is: Don’t necessarily take it from me… but also don’t forget to test drive the 124 Spider. Because it’s better. But don’t take it from me. And get the Abarth.