IS THIS the Mazda MX-5 you’ve always wanted? The 2016 Fiat 124 Spider has been revealed at the 2015 LA motorshow as the start of Fiat’s renaissance, and comes with a more powerful turbocharged engine and Italian dressing inspired by its classic 1960s namesake.
The highly anticipated soft-top convertible, which is based on the Mazda MX-5 and built in the same Hiroshima factory, was launched in the prime convertible market at the LA motor show.
That shark nose, undulating waistline and slanted rear-end of the LA show car were taken from the 1966 124 Spider, which lends the 21st century edition its name.
Despite the Mazda MX-5 platform, which means it shares the same hard points and overall proportions, Fiat exterior design chief Felix Kilbertus says that the team didn’t reference the MX-5’s styling as it developed the new Spider.
“Whether this is based on another car or not didn’t really matter, mostly because we didn’t even see the car,” he said. “This car was designed specifically to be a Fiat, designed from the beginning to be based on the vintage Spider for the 21st Century.”
That means that not a single body panel – not even the doors – are shared with the Mazda, with only the windscreen and that clever, lightweight roof mechanism carrying over from the MX-5. “We put a lot of effort into the things you interact with directly – the door handles, the shifter, which was then covered with beautiful leather, the steering wheel which has a unique section,” Kilbertus said.
Under that fluted bonnet sits the same rorty, rev-happy 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that we’ve enjoyed in the Abarth 595.
For the US market it makes 119kW – a cheeky 1kW more than the most powerful version of the MX-5, the 118kW 2.0-litre – and comes with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. This is also the first rear-drive application of the 1.4-litre MultiAir engine.
There’s double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension under that body, which, at 4054mm, is 139mm longer than MX-5. It’s also 5mm wider, with broader tracks, and weighs in at 1105kg for the manual entry-level model, making it 96kg heavier than the base Mazda.
The 124 Spider is expected to command a premium over the MX-5 in Australia, with pricing estimated to start around $40K.
The Mazda starts at $31,990 with its 96kW 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine, while the 2.0-litre kicks off at $34,490. The Spider goes on sale in North America in the second quarter of 2016, and is scheduled for local showrooms late 2016.
ONE ENGINE, SOME MILEAGE
The turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir engine is built at Fiat’s Termoli plant, east of Rome and is then shipped halfway round the globe to Hiroshima, where it’s plumbed into the front end of the 124 Spider. If the Spider’s lineage wasn’t convoluted enough already, we popped the bonnet on the show car and found Mopar stampings on the underbonnet.