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Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #104: Build a better Miata and the world will beat a path to the worse one | Hagerty Media

Last week, while responding to my article about early-Miata appreciation, a reader asked for my opinion on the Fiat 124 Spider. Well, I am happy to oblige, and here goes: The ND-Miata-based Fiat 124 Spider is brilliant. You should buy one. Well, that wraps up this week's episode of Avoidable Contact!

I love these periodic trips to the dog pound with JB, where we get to meet the mutts everyone has overlooked. 

Intermediate Driver

Seconded. I took a 124 Spider for a couple weeks spin and loved it. Easy to drive in traffic, ergonomic for even 6'2" me and very spirited in the twisties. I'm keeping my eye out for a deal.
Pit Crew


I had a '69 Spider, and the old acronym re-definition really was true...
Fix It Again Tony!

I own a carbureted 1980 Fiat Spider and absolutely love it. Four wheel disc brakes, no power steering, 5 speed gearbox, just enough interior space to catch fifth gear without bumping my wife's shoulder (barely) and a shelf behind the front seats my dog can fit nicely on. I have been watching the new 124s very closely but always thought the new car asking price was too high. Most of the cars on showroom floors had window stickers north of 35k for a mid-tier model. If they have depreciated that much it might be time to consider a purchase. I have heard good things from owners of the Dodge Darts that the turbo multi-air engine is fun and economical.

Of course my own bias on the track records of reliability for Dodge and Fiat have always given me pause. Dodge has made a habit of pairing with brands that don't extend an air of solidity to their base (Nissan, Renault, AMC, Daimler-Mercedes, Fiat) even though they have made some real gems the last few years.

Think you can squeeze a 392 and ZF 8 speed into it?

No, but an LS will fit with the V8 Roadsters kit that works on the ND Miata.
Intermediate Driver

Miata’s have always done much right. But what they do best right is never miss an opportunity. Making a 30th Anniversary and in Racing Orange is a good case in point.
It would seem that Fiat missed the opportunity to have the new 124 designed by Pininfarina. Think of what could a been. Paolo Pininfarina himself summed it best “The Spider is timeless….. If they made the new [Fiat 124] more similar to this, if it had been designed by Pininfarina, it would’ve been better.” 



I’m not sure the Naples police would have been as forgiving of me:
1. ignoring a one-way street sign, only to
2. enter a main road that had been closed to traffic for one of Italy’s many religious festivals,
had I been driving an ND Miata in lieu of the bright red 124...

A long time ago, a similar story played with similar ending.

Acura Legend came to America re-badged also as a Brit brand named Sterling 825. At first it looked good, with lots of wood and leather on interior. Yet the Brit did not survive because of bad dealer service once some issues with the legendary British Legend came up. the Acura Legend was one of the best Japanese cars of its time, alas...

Same old story.

Agreed, with a couple of important exceptions. The first is that the Rover/Sterling 800 was actually built by Rover in Great Britain and had something like 30% unique parts. It lasted well after the second-generation Legend went on sale! The 124, by contrast, was built in Hiroshima with some models receiving minor finish work at FIAT.

The other exception was that the Sterling was actually a fair bit more expensive than the home brand Acura, particularly if you indulged yourself in a higher trim level...
Intermediate Driver

I love and have a special memory of Abarth 124. First time at Goodwood Festival of Speed, Thursday, I headed directly to Moving Motoring show. Talked/bribed my way into driving one up the famed "Hill Climb". Never before shifted with my left hand. Drove up the hill. Bucket list item checked/ticked off. I love those things. I think the look better. They look distinct(er).

Fiat Marketing Department Brainstorm:
We need a sports roadster fast and cheap, development is for the ambitious.
We need margin without capitol.
Our identity is Italian and unique, that is sufficient.
Let's pirate the world's ubiquitous UJSC and call it our own.

What, our paradigm has not been overcome?
The UJSC paradigm is unasaleable? (I made that up)
New Driver

Yes. This is all true. I've put nearly 2k on my 2017 Fiata since I purchased it on March 26. I can't stop driving it. It's a delight.
Pit Crew

I agree that the Fiat 124 is a better car than the ND1. However, it’s not better than the ND2. I drove the 124 Abarth and the Miata Club back to back, and went home with the Miata. It’s just so much sharper, more aggressive, and flexible. You can feel a difference every 500 rpm. The 124 felt numb in comparison. I liked the idea of the NC heavier duty transmission, the unique styling, and a membership to a more exclusive club. At the end of the day the Miata just felt better, and I bought it. Oh, have you seen the values on an ND2 lately, they are not dropping. Paid more, but it was worth it in every way.

ND2 gang unite!

I can see someone liking a 124 more than an ND2 for short term use however.
New Driver

I think another major reason the 124 didn't catch on was that the buff books always damned it with faint praise. Yes, they liked it, but it was never as good as the ND Miata to them. One recurring criticism was that it suffers from noticeable turbo lag, yet JB didn't even mention that. Can anyone with real world experience of the 124 comment on whether the alleged turbo lag is indeed noticeable, and whether that's a problem? I'd also like to hear comments about the manual vs. automatic trans in these from anyone who's experienced both. Thanks.

I wish a turbo Mazdaspeed Miata of the ND generation would happen, but it isn't going to happen. The Fiata never made sense to me, it was clearly a rebadged Miata and not at all Italian. Although if the motor blows or the electrics go then it's quite Italian. (At least modern alfa/fiat). :^)
New Driver

The problem with the 124, as with many cars that are better than the competition spec-wise, was in marketing. Tell me the last time you saw a commercial for *any* Fiat, much less the 124, and I'll tell you why it failed against the more-established, better-marketed, and lesser-as-a-car Miata.

(Same thing with the Buick Regal TourX, a droplet of what Jack likes to call "lot poison" that was (1) more powerful, (2) more fuel-efficient, and (3) had more cargo space than its primary competition, the Subaru Outback. The TourX died a quick death because it wasn't advertised, people didn't know it existed, and Outback cross-shoppers weren't going to set foot in Buick dealerships if they didn't know a superior vehicle could be had there.)

Good article and review.