If you weren’t in on the secret, much of this morning’s presentation at the Park Hyatt Aviara would have made no sense. A series of four FCA personnel stood up to talk about the new 124 Spider, which was behind them to stage right. On stage left was a pristine Euro-bumpered 124 Sport Spider from the late ’60. Each of them talked about “what’s changed on the car.”
“It’s five inches longer, with all-new exterior sheetmetal,” one presenter said. “It’s got an aluminum panel in the folding roof, and thicker rear glass,” another noted. “The suspension tuning is completely different,” stated yet another. I could see the confusion on the faces of some of the older auto journos from the newspapers. It’s five inches longer than the original 124? It’s got thicker rear glass? The suspension is different? Well, duh, right? For more than an hour, Fiat’s marketing, styling and engineering personnel talked about “what’s changed on the car.”
There was the word that never escaped anybody’s lips, not a single time. Even when I raised my hand to ask “how the weight compares,” I couldn’t quite bring myself to say the word. But we can say it here on TTAC: Miata. The new Fiat 124 Spider is based on the ND-generation Mazda Miata, the car that your humble author drove in Spain a year and a half ago and which has been quite justifiably hailed as the finest small roadster of this century. The 124 Spider is assembled right next to the Miata in Japan, with a “J” VIN. The primary difference: where the Miata has a 2.0-liter Skyactiv normally-aspirated four-cylinder, the 124 has the turbo 1.4-liter MultiAir four-banger from the Fiat 500 Abarth, built in Italy and shipped to Mazda’s assembly line.
Fiat would prefer that we didn’t mention the Miata. But, as we’ll see, the 124 Spider need not fear any comparisons with its store-branded sibling. Quite the contrary, in fact.