Fiat 124 Spider Review 2023

Written by Andrew Brady

heycar ratingMeet the Italian Mazda MX-5
  • 2016
  • Convertible
  • Petrol

Quick overview


  • Styling harks back to the classic Fiat 124 Sport Spider
  • Japanese build quality provides some reassurance
  • Abarth version has more power than an MX-5


  • Less engaging than the Mazda MX-5
  • Flat power delivery from the turbocharged engine
  • Interior's lifted straight from the MX-5

Overall verdict on the Fiat 124 Spider

"Although the standard 124 Spider isn’t as sharp as the Mazda MX-5, Fiat should be applauded for creating something with a different flavour. If the MX-5 is wasabi, the 124 Spider is gelato. Like your gelato with, erm, hot sauce? Then we’d recommend the Abarth model."

2023 Fiat 124 Spider Front

There’s a hint of ‘Tenacious D’ to this Fiat 124 Spider review. That’s because it’s a tribute to the greatest affordable sports car in the world.

Although it wears a distinctly Italian suit, the 124 Spider shares much in common with the Mazda MX-5 and is – or rather, was – built in the same factory in Japan. We say ‘was’, because the 124 Spider has been discontinued in some markets and is likely to be removed from the others very soon.

First seen at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, this roadster takes inspiration from the Fiat 124 Sport Spider of 1966. Its launch in 2016 coincided with the 50th anniversary of the original car, with Fiat producing a limited edition Anniversary special to mark the occasion.

In a world of SUVs and crossovers, the Fiat 124 Spider is, figuratively and literally, a breath of fresh air. Small and affordable sports cars are a dying breed, so we must cherish every opportunity we get to try a new one.

As its styling would suggest, the 124 Spider is far more than a facsimile of the Mazda MX-5. The softer, arguably more elegant, styling is matched by a marginally softer driving experience, along with a subtly different interior. The clever use of materials makes the cabin appear slightly bespoke, even though a great deal of it is lifted from the MX-5.

Up front, power is sourced from a 1.4-litre MultiAir petrol engine delivering 140PS. That might not seem like a lot, but thanks to the car’s low weight and the fitment of a turbocharger, the 124 Spider offers plenty of real-world poke.

For added bite, you can also buy an Abarth version, which uses the same 1.4 turbo engine but with power cranked up to 170PS. It might be our favourite version of the Mazda MX-5, especially when you factor in the mechanical upgrades and trick exhaust system.

In standard guise, the 124 Spider offers nine-tenths of the precision and focus of the MX-5, but with a softer and more comfortable ride. It also boasts a satisfyingly short-throw gearbox, although an automatic transmission is available if you want to be even more laid-back.

Predictably, practically isn’t a strong point, but you get marginally more boot space than in the MX-5 and there’s enough capacity for a long weekend somewhere exotic. Might we suggest a trip to the Italian lakes?

Thanks to its short production life, exclusivity is almost guaranteed, with some of the earliest examples now available for the price of a budget city car. Even the hardcore Abarth costs less than an entry-level Ford Fiesta to buy second-hand.

What are you waiting for? The Fiat 124 Spider offers the reliability and reassurance of a Japanese car with the flair and elegance of something Italian. Read on to discover why you need to find room for this enjoyable sports car.

Looking for a used car for sale? We've got 100s of Fiat Approved Used Cars for Sale for you to choose from, including a wide range of Fiat 124s for sale

Everybody should own a two-seater sports car at some point in their life. Whether it’s before the pitter patter of tiny feet or as a weekend toy to offset the tedium of the family SUV, driving a topless sports car is a rewarding and enriching experience.

The Fiat 124 Spider is one of the best of the breed. It’s based on the brilliant Mazda MX-5, sharing an interior and platform with its Japanese sibling, but Fiat has done enough to create a sports car that’s dripping in Italian flair.

Only you can decide if there’s room in your life for a two-seat sports car with limited practicality, but the combination of affordable prices and low running costs means there should be nothing stopping you. This incy wincy Spider will crawl under your skin and make your journey to work a more pleasurable experience.

The most obvious rival is the Mazda MX-5. The 124 Spider was actually built alongside the MX-5 at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan. However, while production of the MX-5 is still in full flow, the Fiat is on borrowed time.

We’d also place the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ in a similar playground as the 124 Spider, although these Japanese tearaways offer strictly tin-top thrills. Beyond that, you’re looking at the likes of the more expensive Porsche 718 Boxster or Alpine A110.

Comfort and design: Fiat 124 Spider interior

"Fiat can say grazie to Mazda for nailing the basics. Thanks to the company’s experience in making the world’s most popular sports car, the low-slung driving position is spot on, while the seats are supportive yet comfortable."

2023 Fiat 124 Spider Interior

It’s not perfect. If you can see eye-to-eye with the likes of Uma Thurman and Vince Vaughn, you might find the 124 Spider a tad tight on a long journey. The seats don’t slide back very far, while the steering wheel adjusts for height but not reach. Roof up, headroom is restricted. Roof down, you’ll be peering over the top of a windscreen like that meme of George Clooney from the movie The Descendants.

Although the cabin will be familiar to anyone who has driven an MX-5, Fiat has used soft-touch materials and coloured accents to make it feel as tailored as an Italian suit. Some models boast an upholstered lower dashboard and instrument cluster hood, as well as piano black dashboard accents. Spec the tobacco leather to give the 124 Spider a rich and opulent feel that you won’t find on the Mazda MX-5.

It looks and feels ready for a tour of the Italian lakes with your significant other by your side. Predictably, the Abarth 124 Spider ups the ante with Abarth racing seats, a steering wheel with red detailing, a racing tachometer, plus swathes of Alcantara on the instrument panel cover, handbrake and gear stick gaiter, lower dashboard and armrest.

The Fiat is the latte, the Abarth is the espresso. Either way, you’ll get a kick from the 124 Spider.

Italian cars don’t have the best reputation for quality and finish, but the Fiat 124 Spider is a little different. Because it shares many components with the MX-5 – a car it is built alongside in Japan – the build quality is excellent.

Everything in the cabin feels well screwed together, with the key touch points delivering a feeling of quality. Subtle details like stitching on the leather seats and the soft-touch plastics used on the dashboard cement the impression that the interior is built to last. Sure, some plastics in the lower half of the cabin feel a little low-rent, but this is true of many other cars and needs to be viewed in the context of price.

A word about the hood, which can be opened or closed in a matter of seconds. Sure, it lacks the theatre of an electrically operated roof, but there’s less to go wrong. Besides, what’s wrong with a little manual labour from time to time?

For the best feeling of quality, upgrade from Classica to Lusso or Lusso Plus trim. The leather seats feel more opulent than the fabric versions, while a raft of cosmetic upgrades help deliver a greater sense of occasion.

If the Fiat 124 Spider has a weak link, it’s the infotainment system. Entry-level cars come with a basic three-inch display radio with Bluetooth, plus USB and Aux sockets. Other models get a Mazda-sourced seven-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, wi-fi connectivity, two USB ports and Aux.

The system can be controlled via a rotary dial positioned between the seats, but can feel a little dimwitted, especially in map mode. It’s also worth noting that although it’s possible to upgrade to the seven-inch display on the entry-level 124 Spider, this doesn’t include navigation.

The seven-inch infotainment system is standard on the Abarth 124 Spider, as is the Bose audio upgrade. It comprises a seven-channel amplifier and nine speakers, four of which are embedded in the headrests. It’s a great system, although the soundtrack from the exhaust could be all the entertainment you need.

Fortunately, the Bose set-up is available as an option on the Lusso Plus. It was also part of the equipment on the Fiat 124 Spider S-Design special edition, which packs just about all the equipment you could ever need.

A two-seat sports car is never going to win a practicality test. You’ll need to be quite inventive with packing if you’re off on holiday in a 124 Spider. Frankly, anything beyond a long weekend will be a struggle.

Fiat 124 Spider boot space sits at a miserly 140 litres of luggage capacity, which is precisely half the space you’ll find in the back of a Mazda 2 supermini. On the plus side, the 124 Spider holds 10 litres more than the Mazda MX-5. Every litre counts, right?

An optional aluminum boot lid carrier kit offers an additional 10kg of luggage capacity, but costs a whopping £1,000. It does look the business, mind, with or without your fine Italian luggage strapped to the back.

Up front, you won’t find a traditional glovebox. Instead, you get a small lockable compartment behind the seats. You’ll also find a pair of movable cupholders, which can be mounted on the transmission tunnel. Alternatively, one can be fitted to the right of the passenger’s right leg. If you’re feeling flush, black gloss cupholders (£200) or silver satin cupholders (£180) are available from the accessories catalogue.

We suggest that your money would be better spent on a shelf net for the lockable luggage compartment. You can also order a cargo net for the boot, which could be useful when you’re carrying home bottles of Italian red from Tesco. Every little helps.

So, the 124 Spider isn’t the last word in practicality, but if you want space, buy a Fiat Tipo estate. Or rent a van.

We should also mention the GT version of the Abarth 124 Spider. It features a detachable carbon fibre hard-top for the closest you can get to a Mazda MX-5 RF (which, like most convertibles, has an electric folding hard-top). It weighs just 16kg and boasts a glass rear window with a defrost function. For all-weather fun, the GT could be just the ticket.

Fiat 124 Spider dimensions come in at 3969mm long, 1613mm wide and 1251mm tall. 

Handling and ride quality: What is the Fiat 124 Spider like to drive?

"The Fiat 124 Spider driving experience is subtly different to that of the Mazda MX-5. This is a good thing, because the world didn’t need an identikit version of the MX-5 wearing a Fiat badge."

2023 Fiat 124 Spider Driving

In reality, it offers around 90 percent of the precision of the Mazda MX-5, with greater ride comfort than its Japanese sibling. We doubt you’ll miss that last 10 percent.

Besides, if you want a hardcore version of the 124 Spider, buy the Abarth model, which is every bit as good as the MX-5. Unlike the standard version, the Abarth 124 Spider gains a limited-slip differential, which translates to more grip powering out of corners.

There’s also a Sport button for improved throttle response, meatier steering and a less intrusive traction control system. Throw into the mix a strut brace and you’ve got the recipe for the most focused 124 Spider you can buy.

It’s not perfect. Neither version offers tremendously communicative steering, which is one of the MX-5’s hallmarks. The 124 Spider also errs on the side of understeer, which isn’t something you can say about the Mazda.

To repeat a point we made earlier, it’s a different animal. The 124 Spider is a slightly softer version of the MX-5, which makes it better suited to Britain’s pockmarked roads. It’s also the one you’d want to take on a cross-continental road trip – and not just because of that extra 10kg of luggage capacity. Don’t forget your toothbrush.

Besides, you will have fun in the 124 Spider. You’d have to be going some to notice the subtle nuances between Fiat and Mazda – and life is too short to worry about such things.

Having said that, the Abarth brings a terrific soundtrack to the party, which gives it the edge over the MX-5 for us. Sorry to be a party-pooper, Mazda fans.

While the Mazda MX-5 offers a choice of two non-turbocharged engines, you’re limited to a 1.4-litre turbocharged MultiAir unit in the Fiat 124 Spider. Without wishing to sound like a broken record, this means the Fiat offers a different take on the formula perfected by Mazda.

Drive an MX-5 and you’ll be rewarded for exploring the fizzy upper reaches of the rev counter, with the 1.5 and 2.0-litre engines thriving on being taken by the scruff of the neck.

Things are different in the Fiat, with the 1.4 turbo creating a highly individual vibe. In truth, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The power delivery is a little inconsistent, with a momentary lag replaced by a surge of power as the turbo spools up. It runs out of puff at the top end, at the point where the MX-5 starts to sing a happy tune.

It’s not all bad news. The throttle response is excellent on boost, especially in the Abarth, which also adds a fruity soundtrack to the trifle. Without the aural delight, the MultiAir can sound a little flat.

The six-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use, with a stubby gear lever accompanied by a wonderfully short-throw shift. Quite why you’d want to ruin things by ordering the automatic transmission is anyone’s guess, but the slush ’box does seem to suit the relaxed nature of the 124 Spider.

As for the performance figures, the Fiat will complete the 0-62mph sprint in 7.5 seconds, with the Abarth getting there in 6.8 seconds. Top speeds are 134mph for the Fiat and 144mph for the Abarth. In both cases, the automatic transmission blunts performance.

The little Fiat feels remarkably refined, which is a credit to the Japanese factory. Although the engine can sound a little coarse, especially when pressed hard, it’s actually part of the sports car experience.

It’s less of a problem in the Abarth, with the Record Monza exhaust doing its best to mask any noises within a radius of a few hundred yards. Seriously, it’s like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra setting up next to a jobbing busker in a subway.

Things are surprisingly calm in the cabin, roof up or roof down. There’s a small amount of wind noise with the roof retracted, but a subtle deflector between the roll hoops keeps it to a minimum, while leaving the windows up also helps.


Much work was done to reduce wind noise and buffeting, right down to the position of the seat belt mounting. The body was designed in such a way to deflect wind above the heads of the occupants, but if you’re really tall, you could find that your head undoes the work put into the aerodynamics.

With the roof up, road noise is the biggest intrusion, but it’s no deal-breaker. Turn up the stereo.

The Fiat 124 Spider hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the Mazda MX-5 was given a four-star rating in 2015. It scored 84 percent for adult occupant protection, 80 percent for child occupant protection, an impressive 93 percent for pedestrian safety, and 64 percent for safety assist systems.

You could expect a similar result had the 124 Spider been tested.

It packs an impressive level of safety kit, with all versions featuring front and side airbags, Isofix childseat mounting points, roll bars, an active pedestrian safety system and a passenger airbag deactivation switch.

The Lusso Plus also boasts rain-sensing wipers and automatic, adaptive LED headlights with washers. There’s no spare wheel, so all versions come with a Fix&Go puncture repair kit.

A word about the hard-top on the Abarth 124 GT. It offers an 80 percent wider view compared to the soft top, so it could be a worthy consideration if you plan a lot of winter driving. Greater visibility is a definite safety feature.

MPG and fuel costs: What does a Fiat 124 Spider cost to run?

"Thanks to the efficiency of a turbocharged engine, the Fiat 124 Spider offers surprisingly good fuel economy."

2023 Fiat 124 Spider Back

All versions offer a combined 44.1mpg with a manual gearbox, dropping to 42.8mpg in the automatic version. CO2 emissions range from 148g/km to 153g/km, depending on the transmission.

We have had few reliability reports specifically relating to the Fiat 124 Spider, which could be down to it being based on the relatively robust Mazda MX-5. That said, Mazda owners have reported problems with the MX-5's roof that could also effect the Fiat. We've also had reports that replacement windscreens for the 124 are in short supply. 

Insurance groups span from 25 to 26 for the Fiat version, or 29 to 31 for the Abarth. Curiously, the 124 GT is the most expensive to insure, which is surprising given that the hard-top should be less prone to vandalism.

To provide some context, insurance groups for the Mazda MX-5 range from 25 to 34, depending on the version.

Fiat 124 Spiders registered before 31 March 2017 incur a Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rate of £165 (manual gearbox) to £205 (automatic). 

For cars registered after 1 April 2017, there was a showroom tax of £215 for the manual and £540 for the automatic. The cost falls to £150 per annum from year two.

How much should you be paying for a used Fiat 124 Spider?

"The earliest examples of the Fiat 124 Spider have dropped below £12,000, with this budget likely to bag you a one-owner car with up to 40,000 miles on the clock. You’ll pay a premium for Lusso or Lusso Plus models, but this will be reflected in higher residual values when it comes to moving on."

2023 Fiat 124 Spider Side

Bank on spending at least £17,000 for a fully loaded S-Design special edition, or £13,000 for a 124 Spider Anniversary. Used Abarth models range from around £15,000 to £20,000. These are small prices to pay for a car that will turn as many heads as something far more exotic.

The entry-level Classica model rides on 16-inch alloy wheels and gets LED rear lights, a steel double exhaust pipe, black roll bar covers, a leather steering wheel with audio controls, a leather gear knob, a three-inch display radio, cruise control, air conditioning, four airbags and keyless start.

Upgrading to the Lusso adds 17-inch wheels, chrome double exhaust pipe, silver roll bar covers, silver windscreen frame, climate control, rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, fog lights, keyless entry, a seven-inch touchscreen display and navigation.

The flagship Lusso Plus boasts a Bose audio system, LED headlights, adaptive automatic front lights and rain-sensing wipers. Also look out for the Anniversary and S-Design special editions, which bookended the 124 Spider’s production run.

Predictably, the Abarth versions come with a host of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades, the majority of which aren’t available on the Fiat models.

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

Yes, the Fiat 124 was discontinued in 2019 due to a lack of demand.
While the Fiat 124 Spider has a bad reputation for reliability in some markets, we have heard few complaints from owners.
No, the 124 Spider's 1.4-litre MultiAir engine was designed in house by Fiat.

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