2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata vs. 2019 Fiat 124 Spider

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The MX-5 Miata offers optional crash mitigation brakes, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The 124 Spider doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

The MX-5 Miata’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The MX-5 Miata has standard E911 Automatic Emergency Notification, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the MX-5 Miata and the 124 Spider have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

Mazda’s powertrain warranty covers the MX-5 Miata 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Fiat covers the 124 Spider. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the 124 Spider ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are over 38 percent more Mazda dealers than there are Fiat dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the MX-5 Miata’s warranty.

Reliability

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the MX-5 Miata’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the 124 Spider’s camshaft. If the 124 Spider’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the MX-5 Miata’s reliability 81 points higher than the 124 Spider.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Mazda vehicles are more reliable than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mazda 14th in reliability. With 48 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 29th.

Engine

The MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 21 more horsepower (181 vs. 160) than the 124 Spider’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. The MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 17 more horsepower (181 vs. 164) than the 124 Spider Abarth’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Mazda MX-5 Miata is faster than the Fiat 124 Spider (manual transmissions tested):

 

MX-5 Miata

124 Spider

124 Spider Abarth

Zero to 60 MPH

5.7 sec

6.6 sec

6.5 sec

Quarter Mile

14.4 sec

15 sec

14.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

95.5 MPH

92.4 MPH

92.6 MPH

Transmission

To help the driver achieve optimum performance and fuel economy, the MX-5 Miata has a standard up-shift light to indicate when to shift based on power needs and conditions. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer an up-shift light.

Brakes and Stopping

The MX-5 Miata stops much shorter than the 124 Spider:

 

MX-5 Miata

124 Spider

 

70 to 0 MPH

156 feet

171 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

109 feet

115 feet

Motor Trend

Suspension and Handling

The MX-5 Miata has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The 124 Spider’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The MX-5 Miata Club handles at .97 G’s, while the 124 Spider Classica pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The MX-5 Miata Club executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.6 seconds quicker than the 124 Spider Classica (25.2 seconds @ .76 average G’s vs. 26.8 seconds @ .66 average G’s).

Chassis

The MX-5 Miata is 5.5 inches shorter than the 124 Spider, making the MX-5 Miata easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

For excellent aerodynamics, the MX-5 Miata has standard flush composite headlights. The 124 Spider has recessed headlights that spoil its aerodynamic shape and create extra drag.

The MX-5 Miata's optional power retractable hardtop allows a seamless transition from an open car, to a completely sealed coupe. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a retractable hardtop.

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the MX-5 Miata has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Mazda MX-5 Miata, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Fiat 124 Spider isn't recommended.

Car and Driver performed a comparison test in its September 2016 issue and the Mazda MX-5 Miata Club won out over the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the MX-5 Miata second among compact sporty cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The 124 Spider was rated third.

The MX-5 Miata was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” for 16 of the last 28 years. The 124 Spider has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

The MX-5 Miata was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” for 8 of the last 25 years. The 124 Spider has never been an “All Star.”

The Mazda MX-5 Miata outsold the Fiat 124 Spider by almost three to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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