2018 Fiat 124 Driving Impressions

The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine uses a single overhead cam. Thanks to 22 pounds of turbo boost, it makes a strong-for-its-size 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. But the MX-5 is quicker, because although its engine isn’t turbocharged, it is 2.0 liters. The Fiat will do zero to sixty in 6.8 seconds, while the MX-5 will do it in just 6.0 seconds. The Fiat’s weakness at the low end is felt more with the automatic transmission, which is otherwise responsive; using the shift paddles helps, but they’re not available on the base Classica.

The Fiat feels better out on the highway, where it brings a better mid-range passing response, especially with the manual gearbox.

The Spider brings some sports car traits than not all sports cars deliver: flat cornering, cat-like reflexes, eager responses, quick steering with sharp accuracy, extension of the driver’s will.

It’s about 100 pounds heavier than the MX-5, but the Fiat is still a very lightweight 2436 pounds, so it changes directions quickly, although not without body lean. But it’s still precise, and always predictable.

The ride in the Classica and Lusso is surprisingly supple, even soft, in not quite like a family sedan, but close.

The Abarth is in no way soft, and far less supple. In fact, some might say it’s stiff, as well as loud. Some also would say that’s what makes it so much fun. It’s quicker to turn in, and more responsive, taking full advantage of its Bilstein shocks and strut tower brace.

We got to drive an Abarth on an autocross course in a big parking lot, where its handling was impressive, but the super-aggressive laps didn’t offer much sense of what it would be like to drive around town every day.

We got more seat time in the Lusso, and it’s pleasant enough, but the 6-speed automatic leaves something to be desired. Shifting is smooth but leisurely, and the manual function, achieved by moving the shift lever fore and aft, doesn’t seem to quicken the shifts.

The 6-speed manual is far more satisfying, with crisp engagements and a sweet clutch.

The 1.4-liter engine’s 184 pound-feet of torque give it respectable thrust, thanks also to boost from the turbocharger. But it doesn’t rev as freely as the MX-5’s naturally aspirated 1.5-liter engine. We guess that it’ll do zero to sixty in about 6 seconds, same as the MX-5.

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