We knew for quite some time that Fiat was prepping to build a small, sporty roadster on Mazda’s ND platform, but we didn’t expect such a divergent result from the original MX-5.
Even though the new Fiat 124 is technically a Mazda MX-5 with Italian-tailored clothes and a turbocharged engine, it manages to adopt a completely different character than its Nippon counterpart. But how can two cars built at the same plant (at Mazda’s Hiroshima facility)look so different?
While the MX-5 appears to be a sharp, driver-focused roadster, the 124 Spider appeals to the forgotten art of “romantic motoring”, centering its existence on driving as a form of delectation, instead of performance.
Of course, these differences are translated in design cues that make each vehicle appear completely different. Not entirely, obviously, as the Japanese base can still be spotted from the 124’s profile and silhouette. Still, the Italians did a pretty good job of (almost) completely masking the original design.
Fiat’s vision mirrors the original 1974 Sport Spider, especially the later, Pininfarina-marketed Spider Azzura, both designed by the Italian coachbuilder. In fact, the similarities between the two are so striking, it actually seems like Fiat brought the Azzura in the 21st century.
Fiat’s brand new roadster is on a completely different visual pathway compared to the Mazda’s approach. Even the proportions are somewhat changed on the 124, as it’s a bit longer with more extended overhangs; or at least it looks that way, since its back end isn’t slightly raked and the front end doesn’t slope towards the tarmac like the MX-5’s aggressive, pointy design.
Nonetheless, at least Mazda’s front end is clean, clear and crisp, with a very unique and original style. Fiat’s front fascia, on the other hand, has a familiar vibe to it (especially the grille), even though you can’t pinpoint where it got it from. It kind of resembles Mini’s current style philosophy, even though we know it’s in fact a very good interpretation of the original Azzura. Sure, it looks more docile than the MX-5’s sharp and angry appearance, even with the two bulges on the hood. The Mazda’s voluptuous bonnet design, which extends to the front fenders, looks more enticing than the forbidden fruit.
At the back, the Fiat takes a trip down to memory lane once again, almost plagiarizing the Azzura. There’s no doubt the simple, gimmick-free approach, along with the slightly tilted taillights were taken from its ancestor, as the new 124 was sketched as a safe, evolutionary approach to the old car that left its distinctive mark on the US market. And yes, it looks markedly different than the MX-5, which appears to be at least 10-years younger than the Fiat.
In the cabin, things take a 180 degree turn, because there are practically no differences between the two models. Both the 124 Spider and the MX-5 have exactly the same layout and design. In fact, the only major game changer is the badge on the (slightly thicker) steering wheel. Perhaps cash-strapped FCA couldn't, or wasn't prepared to, fork out for a new interior.
Fiat’s classic approach may have cleared Mazda’s path and appeal to potential buyers, but its somewhat dated design can still spawn its very own cult of followers.