Badge engineering is the process of selling two version of the same car under different brand names. Fiat-Chrysler was in need of a sporty roadster, but developing one from scratch would require a ton of cash to enter a very competitive niche market. CEO Sergio Marchionne wanted to compete on the world stage with a hot two-seater, so if you can’t beat em, join em. The Fiat 124 Spider is built on the same Hiroshima assembly line as the Mazda Miata. They share the same platform underneath and many interior components are identical. But Fiat supplies a 1.4 liter turbocharged four cylinder from Italy to offer 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.
A week of cruising was not unlike eating Japanese at the Bellagio. The best components from opposite sides of the planet combine to make for a fun experience. On any given weekend, more Miatas are raced than any other roadster. So we expected flat cornering and razor sharp steering. Italians would rather enjoy the drive than carving the perfect cornering line, so many parameters were softened for the 124 Spider. If you don’t like using wide open throttle, Fiat is not the car for you. To evoke the most fun from the 124, standing on the skinny pedal is required in many circumstances. Going topless is the easiest in the industry, and it can be done with one hand while driving.
The soft swaybars and 7″ wide wheels offer just enough body roll to simulate a drift, but the six-speed automatic always seems to put an end to the party. Late model automatic transmissions require a decent amount of power to operate, and the 124 Spider doesn’t have much to play with. The comfort factor makes up for anemic acceleration, plus the aftermarket already has power enhancing parts available. We are inundated by useless options, so we thank Fiat for making a true driver’s car. No power seats, no fragrance injection system. You have cruise control and floor mats. At a base price of $27,495 you will have a 36 mpg roadster that brings back the fun in driving. It is not a complex machine, but it is backed by two of the world’s most successful automakers, and that is why you should consider it. Stay with us for more news & reviews.