2018 Fiat Spider: Fun, affordable convertible

Four years ago, Fiat Chrysler and Mazda announced a joint venture to design a sports car that would essentially be shared as the Miata and the Fiat 124 Spider.

The two convertibles share the same drive train, platform, have similar interiors, and are built in the same Mazda factory in Japan. The styling of the two roadsters is slightly different – the Spider is a little longer and heavier than the Miata.

The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider weighs 100 pounds more and is four inches longer than the Miata, which has always been a popular choice among car buyers who are seeking a fun, affordable convertible. Unveiled in 2017, there are no significant changes to this year’s Spider.

Thanks to its low-to-the-ground position and extra weight, the 2018 Fiat Spider delivers excellent handling when encountering tight turns or curvy country roads.

If you’re a historical fan of the Spider, you probably recall that back in the 1960s the Italian auto manufacturer unveiled the 124 Spider roadster and it became a very popular choice among U.S. car buyers who were looking for something fun. They found it and the word spread. The Spider remains the top-selling Fiat ever in the U.S.

From a visual standpoint, the Spider is certainly appealing, replicating the look of the popular sports car of the 1960s and ‘70s. Although the Spider doesn’t become a convertible with the push of a button, one can easily drop or raise the soft top with one hand in around 15 seconds or less.

The Spider engine is a Fiat-designed turbocharged 1.4-liter, four cylinder that generates 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, providing more overall performance than the Miata. The six-speed manual transmission is standard and recommended if one wants to really get the full driving experience.

But a six-speed automatic (with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the Abarth model) is optional on all three trims. The Spider has been clocked going 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds and gets an estimated 26-35 mpg.

Thanks to its low-to-the-ground position and extra weight, the Spider delivers excellent handling when encountering tight turns or curvy country roads. Fiat engineers added sound-deadening material that makes the Spider noticeably quieter at highway speeds than most of its rivals, which includes the Miata, Mini Cooper convertible and the powerful Nissan 370Z.

2018 Fiat Spider convertible

  • Performance: turbocharged 1.4-liter, four cylinder, 160 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 26-35 mpg
  • Price estimate: $26,100 to $28,700
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain: 4 years/50,000 miles; roadside assistance: 4 years/unlimited; corrosion: 12 years/unlimited

Much like the Miata, the Spider has a no-frills, simplistic interior design. And we do mean simple. You’re lucky to even get a cup holder! There are actually two cup holders, but one is located behind the driver’s right elbow, a terrible location that shouldn’t be attempted to reach while the car is moving.

The Spider has is no center console, glove box or side-door storage areas – just one lone storage area behind the driver’s right arm. Trunk capacity is 4.6 cubic feet, so forget about storing your golf bag.

The cabin is snug, but seating is still relatively comfortable. Head room is fine, but 6-foot or taller occupants might not feel the leg room is adequate. There’s no big learning curve with the Spider interface because it’s uncomplicated and intuitive.

The Fiat 124 Spider is a delight to drive and offers that fun factor convertible lovers desire. It delivers well in a lot of areas – price, performance, looks, and gas mileage.

Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at skiweidel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel. His “Weidel on Wheels” auto reviews are featured periodically on this website at www.tahoeskiworld.com.

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