The cloth has been dropped off the Fiat 124 Spider to reveal more than merely a re-badged Mazda MX-5 – but only just.
The 124 Spider remains Japanese built, but scores an Italian-made turbocharged engine, and its Los Angeles auto show reveal highlights its target of boosting the brand’s slow return to the US market.
Fiat’s Spider version of the Mazda roadster gets higher rear hips that flow into a new side character crease dipping just above the front door handle. The new bonnet drops towards a nose – which looks Dodge-esque to us – that has been pulled forward, possibly to accommodate a front-mounted intercooler for the fresh engine.
Don’t go looking for many changes inside, because the only differences to the MX-5 are added door grabs, new door handles and Fiat font for the gauges. Even Mazda’s MZD-Connect infotainment system remains.
Unlike its all-atmo near-twin, the 124 Spider utilises the familiar 1.4-litre MultiAir turbocharged four-cylinder seen in the Fiat 500 Abarth, and Alfa Romeo Mito QV and Giulietta.
It’s the first time this engine has been installed in a rear-drive application, however, and it bypasses using the usual Fiat dual-clutch to pair with the Aisin six-speed torque converter automatic (or a six-speed manual) used in MX-5.
Producing 250Nm at just 2500rpm, the 124 Spider delivers a handy 50Nm boost compared with the 2.0-litre MX-5 and it comes online 2100rpm lower on the tacho. The Fiat also makes 119kW at 5500rpm, a single kiloWatt more than the Mazda and delivered 500rpm before it.
The soft 6250rpm cut-out is a force-fed downside, however. No performance figures are given, but with a kerb weight of 1105kg, the 124 Spider weighs 72kg more than its 2.0-litre rival.
The 124 Spider is available in two specification levels that closely mirror Mazda base and GT specification; Classica gets the same 16-inch Yokohama Advan tyres as 1.5-litre MX-5, cloth trim, body colour A-pillar and halogens, while Lusso upgrades to 17-inch Bridgestone Potenza rubber and adds leather seats and dash trim, and extra silver trim including on the pillars.
Both get ‘sports’ suspension, but we’re unsure how different this will be to the soft Japanese tune.
The 124 Spider will arrive in Australia in the third quarter of next year, but Fiat will likely skip over this version and await the Abarth version already confirmed (read more here).
Either way, this Italian-Japanese-American roadster (sorry, Spider) marks the first time a turbo engine has officially been used in a Mazda MX-5 chassis since the SE and SP of the early noughties.