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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Fiat 124 Spider or Mazda MX-5?

As the new Fiat 124 Spider shares its underpinnings with the Mazda MX-5, anybody considering buying one should definitely investigate the Japanese alternative before signing an order form.

Apart from some price and specification variations, there are two key differences between the two models: styling and engines.

The 124 Spider's flagrantly retro looks do a decent job of evoking the original 1966 model. By contrast, the fourth-generation MX-5 adopts the much more modern 'Kodo - Soul of Motion' design language. So, as far as this particular criterion is concerned, personal taste should be the decider.

Fiat 124 Spider (2017) Front Side

Mazda MX-5 (2016) Front Side

Powering the rear-wheel drive Fiat is a 1.4 litre MultiAir turbocharged motor that delivers 138 bhp (103 kW / 140 PS) via a six-speed manual gearbox. If any prospective purchasers want a higher output, then they'll have to wait for the 167 bhp (125 kW / 170 PS) Abarth 124 Spider to arrive.

By contrast, Mazda offers a normally-aspirated 129 bhp (96 kW / 131 PS) 1.5 litre unit which is mated to a six-speed manual transmission. There’s also a 157 bhp (117 kW / 160 PS) 2.0 litre option to rival the aforementioned Abarth version.

According to official figures, the 124 Spider is a quicker car, but the MX-5 promises marginally better efficiency.

Model Fiat 124 Spider Mazda MX-5
Engine 1,368 cc, turbocharged, four cylinders 1,496 cc, normally-aspirated, four cylinders
Power 138 bhp (103 kW / 140 PS) 129 bhp (96 kW / 131 PS)
Torque 240 Nm (177 lb/ft) 150 Nm (110 lb/ft)
0-62 mph 7.5 secs 8.3 secs
Top speed 134 mph (215 km/h) 127 mph (205 km/h)
Combined cycle 44.1 mpg (6.4 l/100km) 47.1 mpg (6.0 l/100km)
CO2 148 g/km 139 g/km

In terms of cost, the MX-5 1.5i SE is a comparative bargain at £18,495 on the road.

Realistically, the SE-L is a closer match for the similarly-priced entry-level 124 Spider Classica, even though climate control (instead of manual air conditioning), a 7” colour touchscreen and a DAB radio are included on the Mazda's slightly superior standard equipment list.

Fiat 124 Spider (2017) Interior

Mazda MX-5 (2016) Interior

At the opposite end of each range, the 124 Spider Lusso Plus carries a premium of £500 versus the MX-5 1.5i Sport Nav.

Both come with luxuries such as satellite navigation, keyless entry, LED headlights, automatic lights and wipers, leather upholstery, heated seats and a Bose audio system. The dearer Fiat also boasts 17” rather than 16” alloy wheels, keyless start and a rear-view camera in lieu of reversing sensors, so essentially that's what the extra outlay is paying for.

MX-5 1.5i SE £18,495
124 Spider Classica £19,545
MX-5 1.5i SE-L £19,595
MX-5 1.5i SE-L Nav £20,195
MX-5 1.5i Sport £22,195
124 Spider Lusso £22,295
MX-5 1.5i Sport Nav £22,795
124 Spider Lusso Plus £23,295

Choosing between these two roadsters is going to be a tough task.

Assuming brand loyalty and dealer proximity aren't issues, then the Mazda MX-5 has a small advantage based on value for money. Conversely, the Fiat 124 Spider has the edge in terms of performance.

However, they're narrow distinctions that could well be forgotten after a test drive of either contender.

Related posts:
Abarth 124 Spider unveiled
2016 Mazda MX-5 UK specs and prices
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