Ace of Base: 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Classica
Many corners of the internet expected the roadster shown here to show up as an Alfa Romeo Spider, not a Fiat 124 Spider, when rumours surfaced all those years ago about the MX-5 donning a natty Italian suit. Perhaps Fiat Chrysler made its decision at the time based on Fiat’s larger dealer network or some sort of answer provided by Sergio’s Magic 8 Ball.
Whatever the reason, we now live in a world where a brace of affordable and fun two-place roadsters are on offer. While the fraternal twins share a great deal, their clothes are different, as are their hearts. We’ve already deemed the base Mazda MX-5 to be worthy of AoB mention; can its Italian brother turn the same trick?
The base Classica trim stickers at an agreeable $24,995 which is actually $300 less than the MX-5 for this 2018 model year. That’s a reversal of roles, as the Fiat used to command a few extra shekels. One of the biggest differences between the two, of course, is FCA’s choice to install the 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo in the 124 Spider rather than the mill found in the Mazda.
The Hiroshima harlot advertises 155 horsepower while the Italian stallion says it provides 160 ponies for its driver’s enjoyment. Given the fundamental differences between the two mills, they deliver their power in vastly different ways. Torque is said to be 184 lb-ft in the Fiat and 148 lb-ft in the Mazda. Both are teamed with a six-speed manual.
Every color on its seven-spot palette, ranging from Rosso Red to the Magnetico Bronze shown here, is offered at $0. Tires are sized a reasonable 195/50/16 and a quick check of the Tire Rack website reveals plenty of options in that measure for less than $100 each.
Its lack of standard SiriusXM radio, part of a $1,395 technology package, sticks in my craw. However, a case could be made that drivers of a fun and funky two-seat convertible should be listening to the engine instead of tunes. That point is not devoid of merit.
Everything seems closer when driving a convertible, such as when one is bombing along a county road and catches a whiff of freshly cut grass or tooling down Main Street and smelling the saucy ribs from that BBQ joint on the corner. Every interaction suddenly becomes more pronounced, more connected. Going for a gallon of milk is never so much fun.
At 7:35 a.m. on a deserted road, with its sub-2,400 lb weight perfectly distributed and the steering wheel speaking to me every time I run over an amoeba, do I care that I need T-Rex arms to adjust the 124’s radio via Mazda’s silly interface (which works great in the CX-9 but is obtuse here)? No. Do I care that I need to be a contortionist to get anything out of the glovebox? No. I really don’t care if this thing picks its nose and farts in bed. Small, fun convertibles are an elixir, the cure for the common car. They are fabulous and we need more of them.
That such driving fun can be had for $24,995 in this day and age is no less than remarkable. With this author heading into the month of March, dreaming of summer despite a snowstorm on the way for tomorrow, I can think of no better time in which to place the Fiat 124 Spider on our Ace of Base list.
[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selection.
The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim, absent of destination charges and available rebates. As always, your dealer may sell for less.
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Had to double check that Steph wasn't filling in on an AoB post with his all time favorite engine adjective showing up in the article. Penny pinchers will want to know what the 124's depreciation is like compared to the Miata. Like most people who've owned a Miata I miss mine, but can confirm that the most important use case for the stereo is when you're stationary. The space behind the seats where the roof goes can act like a giant echo chamber magnifying the sounds from the trunk.
That Fiat is soooo much prettier than the Mazda, but I would want the Mazda engine if I'm buying (and paying to keep it running)!