The 124 Spider comes with a peppy 1.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 160 hp. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox. While 160 hp may not sound like a lot, the 124 Spider is incredibly light and acceleration should be plenty rapid. That lightness also pays dividends at the fuel pump. While fuel economy may not have been the top priority when the 124 was designed, the FIAT achieves ratings of 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Rather, the 124 Spider's philosophy seems to favor fun over just about any other factor. Rear-wheel drive makes interior packaging more difficult, but it does wonders for feel, handling and acceleration out of corners. A 6-speed manual may not be as easy to use as an automatic, but it does induce grins at a much higher rate.
Three trims are offered, Classica, Lusso and Abarth. Standard features across the entire range include push button start, power mirrors, LED brake lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and air conditioning.
The Lusso trim costs about $2,500 more and adds a few more features to feel less spartan. 17-inch wheels, fog lamps and chrome exhaust tips jazz up the exterior, while stainless steel sill plates add a little style to the interior. Also included on the Lusso are rain-sensing wipers and a keyless entry system.
Costing under $1000 more than the Lusso, the Abarth is mainly a performance trim. It adds a mechanical limited slip differential, which keeps the Abarth from spinning up only one tire instead of two when exiting tight corners. The Abarth also gets a Bilstein suspension system which firms up the car and generally increases responsiveness. Styling wise, the Abarth gets a slightly meaner front fascia as well as black painted wheels.
A couple of notable option packages are available. A Premium Collection package includes a 9 speaker Bose sound system, adaptive front headlights, which swivel based on steering angle and acceleration, auto-dimming and heated exterior mirrors, a blind spot detection system, a navigation system, LED headlamps, an alarm and SiriusXM satellite radio. A less-expensive Safety and Comfort Collection option package includes the nicer mirrors and sensor suite without the GPS, stereo and assorted luxury items from the Premium Collection. An automatic transmission is also available as an option across the entire range.
I spent a lot of time in Roadshow's long-term Mazda MX-5 Miata, tackling daily commutes, going on road trips and tracking it on numerous occasions. Minus its brake fade issues when driven really hard, I loved the little roadster. With that said, it seems natural that I would be equally enamored of the 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. After all, this Italian two-seater is built upon the Miata's excellent platform. But with its own exterior design, unique suspension tuning and turbocharged engine, would I like it enough to make me push the Miata aside?
Unlike some visually indistinguishable platform-sharing cousins like the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86, the Fiat 124 Spider is a fair bit different from the Mazda Miata. It wears its own sheetmetal, and is a full 5.5 inches longer than the Miata. Fiat says the 124's styling inspiration is borrowed from the original Italian roadster, bringing cues like the inset headlights, grille, hood ripples and side character lines to today's car. The performance-focused Abarth strikes a sportier pose with unique front and rear fascias, gunmetal accents and 17-inch wheels. Do I like the look? I don't mind the more mature appearance, but I do like the Mazda's more aggressive lines better overall.
Miata-Fiat differences more or less vanish once you step inside. With the exception of different gauges, door panels, small trim bits and badges, it's acabin in the 124 Spider. The Fiat, however, is quieter when rolling around town with the top up thanks to an acoustic windshield, thicker rear glass and additional sound insulation for a more relaxing ride.
The Good The 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth's turbo engine sounds the business, and this roadster features an excellent ride and handling mix.
The Bad The engine suffers noticeable boost lag and the infotainment system lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Bottom Line The 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth is an entertaining and comfortable drop-top sports car.
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