Quick Spin: Fiat 124 Spi­der is a light and lively two-seater

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE -

Lovers of light, nim­ble, two-seat sports cars that don’t break the bank are in luck.

The Fiat 124 Spi­der, and the me­chan­i­cally sim­i­lar Mazda Mi­ata MX-5, share much of the same good­ness, but of­fer dif­fer­ent de­sign aes­thet­ics and engines. The Fiat shows off its Ital­ian DNA with slightly longer and more tra­di­tional body lines, while the more com­pact Mi­ata looks like the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of a bul­let in flight.

Af­ter a week in a topof-the-line Fiat 124 Abarth, which is as­sem­bled in Ja­pan along­side the Mi­ata, we think lovers of clas­sic road­sters will pre­fer the Fiat with its elon­gated hood, sculpted rump and up­graded in­te­rior.

Our tester, in metal­lic sil­ver paint with 17-inch gun metal­lic wheels, has a black drop-top. For this year, Fiat has also added a Red Top op­tion. We’ve seen pho­tos, and the Spi­der red top looks gor­geous over light gray paint.

JUST THE FACTS: The 2018 Fiat 124 Spi­der Abarth is the sporti­est ver­sion of the Spi­der line, with a host of cos­metic and per­for­mance up­grades. The rear­wheel-drive Spi­der is a close cousin to the Mazda MX-5 Mi­ata; so mem­bers of the au­to­mo­tive press have dubbed it the “Fi­ata.” Be­cause of its two-seat con­fig­u­ra­tion and mi­crotrunk,

the 124 Spi­der is of­ten a se­cond or third car for most own­ers, and is thus re­served for sunny days and open roads.

The 124 Spi­der Abarth is pow­ered by a 1.4-liter tur­bocharged en­gine that makes 164 horse­power and sling­shots the 2,436-pound road­ster from zero-to-60 mph in 6.5 sec­onds ac­cord­ing to Car and Driver. The Mi­ata, on the other hand, has a 2.0-liter, nor­mally as­pi­rated en­gine that makes 155 horse­power.

HOW MUCH, AND WHERE: Our tester, which rep­re­sents the higher reaches of 124 Spi­der pric­ing, has an MSRP of $34,525. Pric­ing for a base model starts at $24,995. Fi­ats are avail­able at Crown Fiat of Chat­tanooga on Chap­man Road.

OP­TIONS WE COULD LIVE WITH­OUT: The six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion in our tester is a $1,350 up­grade. Most sports-car purists would pre­fer the stan­dard, man­ual gear­box.

OP­TIONS WE LOVE: Up­grad­ing to the Abarth trim line nets alu­minum ped­als, a “sport” driv­ing mode, a lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial, heated im­i­ta­tion-leather seats and the spe­cial gun-metal alu­minum wheels.

SAFETY FIRST: A $1,495 “con­ve­nience group” bun­dles blind-spot and cross-path mon­i­tor­ing, rear-park as­sist and heated ex­te­rior mir­rors — all valu­able safety-tech fea­tures.

FUEL ECON­OMY: The Fiat 124 Spi­der is a gas sip­per. The gov­ern­ment says to ex­pect 36 mpg in high­way driv­ing and 29 mpg in the city.

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR CHAT­TANOOGA: The Fiat 124 Abarth cuts through our moun­tain roads like a hot knife through but­ter. This is the ul­ti­mate day-trip car for cou­ples who en­joy drop­ping the top and soak­ing in the area’s scenic beauty.

BOT­TOM LINE: The Fiat 124 Spi­der Abarth is a near per­fect car for driv­ing en­thu­si­asts who want to ex­pe­ri­ence crisp, sportscar hand­ing in an eco­nom­i­cal, open-cock­pit auto.

Con­tact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY MARK KENNEDY

The 2018 Fiat 124 Spi­der Abarth is a fun-to-drive two-seater built along­side the Mazda MX-5 Mi­ata.

The drop top on the 2018 Fiat 124 Spi­der can be flung back with one hand at a stop­light.

Mark Kennedy

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