A twin to Fiat's 124 Spider is Mazda's flagship roadster, the MX- 5 Miata. Via a corporate agreement, the two sportsters share a Mazda production facility at Hiroshima, Japan. From the front and sides and from a modest distance, it is difficult to tell them apart.
Both are front-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-seaters with a tiny trunk at the rear. They share six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. Steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters are standard with the automatic.
The Fiat has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, the Miata a revised 2-liter engine. Both engines have four cylinders. Since they weight about the same, fuel usage is comparable hovering between 30 and 35 miles per gallon of gasoline for combined city and highway driving.
They share mechanicals but, as human twins can differ in temperament, so can cars.
Spider's turbocharged 160-horsepower engine accounts for acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds which pales in comparison to the Miata's 5.5 seconds. Miata's performance is enhanced in 2019 models by the addition of 26 more horsepower to its engine. Horsepower has been increased to 181 from the former 155 horses, and the engines redline raised to 7,500 rpm (up from 6.800). In comparison the Fiat's 124 Spider engine remains at 160 for 2019.
The increased horsepower in the 2019 Miata is due in part to the reconfiguration of intake ports and new fuel injectors.
The purr coming from the dual exhausts of the Miata is not duplicated in the 124 Spider.
Pricing for 2019 models are similar. The 124 Spider's is roughly $25,000-$30,000 and that of the MX- 5 Miata's $25,000 to $35,000.
For comparison purposes, a 2018 MX-5 with the soft-top carried a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $25,295. Mazda dealers might have a few of these still around. The soft-top remains a less expensive choice for buyers. A soft-top 2019 MX-5 convertible is priced at $26,500. The hard-top RF model carries the $33,335 price tag.
Probably the most distinctive difference between the Fiat and the Mazda convertibles is that the 124 Spider has a manual softtop and the upgrade Miata an optional RF power retractable hardtop. After testing both vehicles, the process for lowering or raising each top takes no more than 15 seconds. Mazda engineers claim a time of 13 seconds for the Miata RF.
Interiors are similar but, big news for the MX-5 is the addition of a tilt & telescoping steering column. The Miata has at least one cupholder in front close to the dashboard for easy access. The other cupholder is between yet behind the front seats and difficult to reach. Both the two Spider cupholders are between and behind front seats and almost impossible to utilize.
A smoker's package was not designed into either vehicle. Amenities and safety features are comparable.
Since it is a metal top, the Miata MX-5's cabin is relatively quiet. With the top up, a driver and passenger actually can carry on a conversation. With the top down conversations is hit and miss.
Besides leather trim, niceties on the MX-5 include one-touch down power windows, Bose nine-speaker audio system, heated power side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, glass rear window with defogger, Bluetooth, high definition AM-FM-satellite radio, auxiliary jack and two USB ports.
Weight distribution is 50-50
Production began on the Miata in 1989. The 124 Spider's reintroduction to the United States market was in 2017. An original production period was from 1966-1985.
Vehicle: Grand Touring RF model of 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata
Type: rear-wheel-drive subcompact two-seat, hard-top convertible
Engine: 2-liter, 181-horsepower, in-line four-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed manual
Fuel tank: 11.9 gallons
Weight: 2,453 pounds
Leg room: 43.1 inches front
Length, width, height in inches: 160, 69, 49
Trunk: 4.9 cubic feet
Tires (205), aluminum wheels: 17-inch
Warranty: three years or 36,000 miles with roadside assistance, five years or 60,000 miles powertrain