Fiat 124 Spider vs. Mazda Miata

Aug 15, 2016 by Cedric (Driver Weekly)

In the world of convertible roadsters, the Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda MX-5 Miata are in constant competition enthusiasts and commentators. If you think these two cars are similar, it is because they share the same platform. While the Miata was launched in 1989, the Fiat 124 Spider first appeared in 2015 sharing the same underpinning as the fourth generation Miata ND released at the same time. However, despite sharing the same underpinning, the automakers worked hard to make sure the two vehicles have distinct exteriors and different engines. Let’s take a closer look at these roadsters.   

Design


Fiat USA

Although the Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda Miata share the same underpinnings, the exterior styling of the two is different. While the Miata was inspired by British sports cars, the design of the Fiat is influenced by Italian vehicles. As a result, the two models have completely different body panels. You won’t find a consensus on which model is more aesthetically appealing; that will come down to personal preference. While it might seem subtle at first glance, the Miata has elegant lines and a clean fascia, while the Fiat embraces a more detailed hood and grille. For some, the Spider’s optional racing stripes give it a more traditional sporting feel, but that’s a minor distinction between two compelling appearances.

Interior


Mazda USA

If you can’t decide between the bodywork, the interior won’t help you make up your mind: each model is almost identical to the other. Both provide interchangeable infotainment features and options. Sharing the same dimensions and construction, there are only minor differences between the two vehicles—including soft-touch dashboard materials aboard the Fiat and different colors and fonts on the instrument panel. As with exterior styling, there is no winner, just personal preference.

Sizes


Mazda USA

Both models have a 90.9-inch wheelbase, and their front and rear track lengths are both 58.9 inches and 59.1 inches, respectively. Other than that, the Fiat is 5.5 inches longer, 0.2 inches wider, and 95 pounds heavier with a manual and 104 pounds heavier with an automatic. The Mazda is 0.1 inches taller. The result is that the Fiat has slightly more cargo space, with 4.9 cubic feet compared to the Mazda’s 4.6. Since the figures aren’t incredibly different, you will have to decide whether these variations matter to you. However, the weight difference can play a role in performance.

Engines


Fiat USA

Since both the Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda Miata are designed with a fun-to-drive feel, the engines are very important. The Fiat has a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine that comes from the 500 Abarth while the Mazda relies on a 2-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. This results in the Spider giving you more engine output, with 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet compared to 155 and 148, respectively, in the Miata. The Fiat’s added weight does somewhat make up for this difference. The Miata has a power-to-weight ratio of 15.0:1 while the Spider delivers 15.2:1. Since, in this case, lower is better, the Miata may actually give you a more powerful feel while driving. When you get behind the wheel, you are likely to notice less body roll in the Fiat than the Miata, although it may also cause a gentle understeer if you push it too hard. The Fiat also feels slightly stiffer on the highway, with heftier steering. Once again, personal preference determines which driving feel you will enjoy more.

Fiat successfully brought their sense of style while taking full advantage of the new platform— it’s not just a rebadged Mazda Miata. While we would have hoped for more distinct interiors, both vehicles retain a unique style.

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