Why the Fiat 124 Spider Isn’t Better Than the Mazda Miata

In 2015, Fiat Chrysler introduced a 2017 model of the 124 Spider at the LA Auto Show. The roadster shares a platform with the Miata, and is even manufactured alongside it at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant. Because of the connection, some have nicknamed the new 124 Spider the “Fiata”.

Despite a few similarities, the 124 Spider and the Miata are pretty different. While many experts and auto blogs are already crowning the 124 Spider the champion of the roadsters, when compared side by side, the Miata has an edge. Here’s why:

Design

Mazda Exterior
Fiat ExteriorThe Miata (top) has a sportier and more aggressive look than the 124 Spider (bottom).

Though the two cars share the same platform, their aesthetics go completely different directions. Let’s start with the 124 Spider. It sports a more rounded headlight appearance, an upper and lower grille, and fog lights that sit to the sides of the lower grille.

The Miata’s front is more sculpted, and sharper lines can be seen in the headlight, side vent, and hood designs. The typical Kodo grill sits up front, making for an overall aggressive appearance. Point blank, its angular body is a more attractive choice compared to the conventional look of the 124 Spider.

Dimensions

While the 124 Spider and the Miata have an identical 90.9 inch wheelbase, the Fiat is more than 5 inches longer than the Miata thanks to its exaggerated overhangs. It’s also a smidge wider and a full 104 pounds heavier when equipped with a manual transmission (this shrinks to 95 pounds with the automatic transmission). As explained below, this extra weight ultimately hurts the 124 Spider.

Under the Hood

The 124 Spider’s turbocharged 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine cranks out 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. This gives it a 5 hp advantage over the Miata, which uses a naturally aspirated, 2.0 liter inline four. The 124 Spider’s power to weight ratio is 15.2:1, compared to the Miata’s 15.0:1. While the 124 Spider has a slight power advantage over the Miata, when comparing pounds per horsepower, the Miata edges out the 124 Spider.

Interior

Mazda Interior

The Miata's Interior

Fiat Interior

The 124 Spider's Interior

At first glance, you might swear the cabins in the Mazda and the Fiat are the same thing. In fact, the dimensions for headroom, legroom and hip room are exactly the same—the only difference is in shoulder room, with the Miata edging out the 124 Spider 52.2 inches to 52.1 inches. The most apparent difference between the two is the Fiat’s use of soft-touch materials on the dash, which simply aren’t as durable as the hard plastic in the Miata.

Pedigree

The 124 Spider is the new kid on the block, the rookie who's getting ready to step on the field for the first time since draft day. Meanwhile, the Miata MX-5 has garnered a number of awards in its lifetime. for the 2016 model year alone, the Miata has snagged these awards:

  • Car and Driver 5/5 rating
  • Car and Driver 10Best Car 2016
  • 2016 World Car Design of the Year Award
  • 2016 World Car of the Year Award

The car game isn't an "everyone goes home with a trophy" kind of deal. It means a lot when established publications such as Jalopnik say, "This might just be the best performance car you can buy. Period."

The 124 Spider may very well be the next great sports car. But for now, the Miata reigns supreme. Our advice? Don't start the unproven rookie over the MVP.

Price

The base price for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is $24,915, topping out just under $32,000 when options are included. The 2017 124 Spider’s base is almost identical the Miata’s at $24,995. However, the 124 Spider can fetch as much as $34,000 for the top model, a limited edition.

Conclusion

While the 124 Spider’s resurgence is a welcome addition to the roadster market, it’s very similar—if not a little behind—that of the Miata. Let’s give it a few more years to catch up. For now, we’d bet on the Miata.