The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider has an upper grille with a hexagonal shape inspired by the original 124 Spider’s front air intake. (Mary Lowry / For The Herald)

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider has an upper grille with a hexagonal shape inspired by the original 124 Spider’s front air intake. (Mary Lowry / For The Herald)

Fiat Spider roadster’s feisty return worth the 31-year wait

By Mary Lowry

The first Fiat 124 Spider roadster was presented 50 years ago at the Turin Auto Show. It enjoyed a nearly 20-year stint with assorted modifications, and was retired in 1985.

Thirty-one years later, which would be right about now, the Fiat 124 Spider has returned, with a twist: It’s based on the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

That doesn’t mean it’s a Miata with Fiat badging. Some chassis components, interior design elements and telematics are shared with the Mazda, but the new 2017 Fiat 124 Spider has an Italian bloodline. Designed in Turin at Centro Stile, the aim was to create a more contemporary version of the classic Fiat 124 Spider, whose characteristics are revered by sports car enthusiasts, and mirror the original’s ability to deliver a terrific open-air driving experience at a reasonable price.

In the new 124 Spider, a 160-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine assembled in Termoli, Italy, sends power to the rear wheels and generates 184 lb-ft of torque. The base Classica model is available with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic. The automatic is standard on the uplevel Lusso model. A high-performance Abarth version of the car, scheduled for later introduction, coaxes four more horsepower from the engine and a much meaner tone from its quad exhaust.

Fuel economy ratings are 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with a manual transmission and 25/36 mpg with an automatic. Premium fuel is recommended for optimum performance and fuel economy, but regular (87 octane) is acceptable.

Seating for two is provided, with more generosity toward the driver in terms of space. Stowage opportunities are minimal inside the cabin, including the absence of cupholders, but the trunk is roomy enough for the weekend getaway luggage of one or two light packers.

The well-insulated soft top has manual operation and can be raised or lowered with one hand, from inside the car by most people.

A fixed standalone touchscreen rises from the center dash, the most obvious hint of the Mazda connection.

Standard features on the base model include remote keyless entry, push-button start, cloth bucket seats, cruise control, air conditioning, six-way manually adjustable driver seat (four-way on the passenger seat), six-speaker audio system with radio and MP3 player, USB port and auxiliary input, and Bluetooth connectivity.

An array of optional features gives buyers flexibility in embellishing their 124 Spider without breaking their budget.

Pricing, including a $995 destination charge, starts at $25,990 for the Classica model with a manual transmission and $27,340 with an automatic; $28,490 and $29,840 (manual/automatic) for the Lusso; and $29,190 and $30,540 (manual/automatic) for the Abarth.

The Classica and Lusso versions of the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider arrive this summer at local dealerships, and the Abarth models are due this fall. The first 124 units sold will be available as limited-production Prima Edizione Lusso versions, priced at about $35,000 and individually numbered with a commemorative badge. They will have, exclusively, Azzurro Italia blue metallic paint.

This is an overview of the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider based on a media drive event held by the manufacturer. Automotive reviews that include driving impressions and other opinions appear only after a vehicle has been given the standard weeklong test-drive.

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