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2017 Fiat 124 Spider is a lean, mean, rear-wheel-drive Italian machine (pictures)

Fiat used the Mazda MX-5 as its starting point for the 2017 124 Spider, but you'd be hard-pressed to figure that out yourself. Featuring all-new sheetmetal and Fiat's own 1.4-liter four-cylinder powertrain, this Italian-designed roadster is a serious throwback to the original 124, which debuted nearly half a century ago.

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andrewkrok.jpg

Andrew Krok

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2017 Fiat 124 Spider
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The 124 Spider is the brand's first proper roadster since its return to the United States. There are cabrio versions of the 500, but those aren't full-on convertible tops.

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A keen eye might note some features shared with another new roadster. In fact, the Fiat 124 is based off the same chassis as the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

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The Fiat and its Mazda brethren share the same suspension setup -- double wishbones up front and multi-link out back.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider
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The taillights are squarish units that are meant as a throwback to the original 124 Spider, but we see a bit of -- dare we say it -- Dodge Viper in there.

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The Fiat's similarity to the Mazda is mostly in the chassis. There are no body panels that the two roadsters share.

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The Fiat 124 Spider is as Italian as it gets. The car was designed at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider
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The convertible soft top is entirely manual, just like the Miata's. Okay, maybe there are a few similarities beyond the chassis.

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The Fiat 124 Spider is a fair bit more powerful than the Miata, as well. The Spider's 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine puts out 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, compared to the Miata's 155 horsepower and 148 pound feet.

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The Spider is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic.

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At the vehicle's launch, the manual transmission will only be available with the lower of the two trim levels. Thus, if you want a leather interior or heated seats, you're stuck with the automatic.

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Whereas the Miata is a sporty little car to be thrashed about, the Spider's proportions and equipment loadout suggest it's more of a boulevard cruiser, meant for comfortable jaunts around town.

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Another throwback to the original 124 Spider is the pair of "power dome" bumps on the new car's hood.

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At launch, the Spider will be available in six different colors -- red, white, black, gray, dark gray and bronze.

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Opt for the higher of the car's two available trim levels, and a pearl-white paint job will become available.

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Despite its diminutive proportions, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider comes with plenty of technology, both standard and optional.

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Available safety equipment includes adaptive front headlights, which sweep to the side to better highlight curves. It's helpful if, say, there's a pothole just around the bend.

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Even though the car is tiny and visibility is ample, buyers can opt for a blind-spot monitoring system that takes the guesswork out of changing lanes.

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A backup camera with rear cross-traffic alert is also available, likely because backup cameras will be federally-mandated standard equipment in the next few years.

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Fiat has not yet announced pricing for the 2017 124 Spider.

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The car will make its public debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show.

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There is not yet any mention of the vehicle's availability in either the UK or Australian markets.

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If we were betting-types, we'd put our money on the 124 Spider arriving, at the least, in select European markets.

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The vehicle's wheels and trim suggest more of a luxurious attitude compared to the car's Japanese brother.

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If you like never having to hold a key in your hand, the 124 Spider can be optioned with keyless access.

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The 124 shares the same general interior as the Mazda, but the individual pieces therein have been upgraded to softer-touch materials not available on the car's Japanese counterpart.

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All the car's interior switchgear and gauge displays were pulled straight from the MX-5. That's not a bad thing, because they're very easy to read and are all located in spots that are quick to commit to muscle memory.

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Mazda and Fiat also share the same seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which includes standard Bluetooth connectivity.

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Just behind the shifter lies the infotainment's redundant knob, which is helpful if you prefer to keep your screen free of smudges.

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There's a little bit of storage space tucked between the seats, in case you'd rather not have loose items dancing about the interior.

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The first 124 vehicles (cute) rolling off the assembly line will be limited-edition models sporting a unique blue paint job.

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The special-edition 124 Spider also comes with a brown leather interior, adding to the car's already premium feel.

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