When it comes to picking a new convertible, the choice between the Fiat 124 Spider and the legendary Mazda MX-5 is going to be a difficult call. For years the iconic Mazda has been the market-leader – sleek, high-performance and modern, it had everything going for it.
But now the new Fiat 124 Spider is giving the favourite a run for its money. Coinciding with the fiftieth birthday of Fiat’s much-loved 1966 Spider, this new model shares a chassis with the Mazda MX-5 but uses different body panels and a different engine. So how to choose between them?
In many ways, the two are inseparable. Inside they both share a free-standing touch- or dial-controlled screen to control the infotainment system. In terms of driving experience they feel very alike: both the Mazda MX-5 and the Fiat 124 Spider are fantastically responsive, a pleasure to drive on either a short hop or a long journey.
There is also little between them in terms of boot size, with the Fiat just coming in first with an extra 10 litres of capacity.
Appearance-wise they’re very different, with the Mazda possessing a more dramatic futuristic look and the Fiat giving a nod to the timeless and retro appearance of its forebears. With its attention-grabbing round headlights, the Fiat is an elegant machine, but with sharp angles and sculpted rear-end, the Mazda certainly turns heads.
Inside, Mazda have opted for stylish red stitching, while Fiat have introduced glamorous silver inserts to the door panels. The Fiat differs from the Mazda in having an optional automatic gearbox, and thanks to improved sound-deadening technology it’s also a much quieter drive.
But it’s the engines where you see the biggest difference. Mazda have a pair of twin non-turbo petrol engines, one a 130hp 1.5 litre and the other a 160hp 2.0 litre. By comparison, Fiat have fitted a 138hp 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol-engine, meaning effortless acceleration.
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Ultimately, the choice between the Mazda MX-5 and the Fiat 124 Spider has to be down to personal preference. Whether you go for the old favourite or the new contender, you’re guaranteed the drive of your life.