2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata vs. 2019 Fiat 500 Cabrio

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 500 Cabrio 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 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

To help make backing safer, the MX-5 Miata’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer a cross-path 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 500 Cabrio 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 500 Cabrio 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 and available blind spot warning systems.

Warranty

Mazda’s powertrain warranty covers the MX-5 Miata 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Fiat covers the 500 Cabrio. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the 500 Cabrio 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 500 Cabrio’s camshaft. If the 500 Cabrio’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 77 points higher than the 500 Cabrio.

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 46 more horsepower (181 vs. 135) and 1 lbs.-ft. more torque (151 vs. 150) than the 500 Cabrio’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. The MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 24 more horsepower (181 vs. 157) than the 500c Abarth’s optional 1.4 turbo 4 cyl. The MX-5 Miata’s 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. produces 21 more horsepower (181 vs. 160) than the 500c Abarth’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the MX-5 Miata Auto gets better fuel mileage than the 500c Auto (26 city/35 hwy vs. 24 city/32 hwy).

The MX-5 Miata has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the 500 Cabrio (11.9 vs. 10.5 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission

A six-speed manual is standard on the Mazda MX-5 Miata, with closer gear ratios for better performance and a lower final drive ratio for quieter highway operation, less engine wear and better fuel mileage. Only a five-speed manual is available for the 500 Cabrio.

Suspension and Handling

For superior ride and handling, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Fiat 500 Cabrio has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The MX-5 Miata has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The 500 Cabrio’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The MX-5 Miata has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the MX-5 Miata flat and controlled during cornering. The 500 Cabrio base model’s suspension doesn’t offer a rear stabilizer bar.

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the MX-5 Miata is 3.5 inches wider in the front and 4.2 inches wider in the rear than on the 500 Cabrio.

The MX-5 Miata’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (50.4% to 49.6%) than the 500 Cabrio’s (64% to 36%). This gives the MX-5 Miata more stable handling and braking.

The MX-5 Miata Club executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 4.3 seconds quicker than the 500c Lounge (25.2 seconds vs. 29.5 seconds).

For better maneuverability, the MX-5 Miata’s turning circle is 6.8 feet tighter than the 500 Cabrio’s (30.8 feet vs. 37.6 feet).

Chassis

The MX-5 Miata is 10.6 inches shorter in height than the 500 Cabrio, making the MX-5 Miata much easier to wash and garage and drive (lower center of gravity).

The MX-5 Miata's optional power retractable hardtop allows a seamless transition from an open car, to a completely sealed coupe. The 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer a retractable hardtop.

Cargo Capacity

A standard locking center console (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the MX-5 Miata. The 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the MX-5 Miata is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the 500 Cabrio. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

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 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The MX-5 Miata’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children from operating them. Fiat does not offer a locking feature on the 500 Cabrio’s standard power windows.

The MX-5 Miata’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 500 Cabrio’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

Advanced Keyless Entry and Start standard on the MX-5 Miata allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Fiat 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The MX-5 Miata has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The MX-5 Miata Grand Touring’s standard wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield. The 500 Cabrio’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

The MX-5 Miata Grand Touring has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

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 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the MX-5 Miata Grand Touring has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The 500 Cabrio doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The MX-5 Miata Grand Touring has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The 500 Cabrio offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Mazda MX-5 Miata, based on reliability, safety and performance.

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 500 Cabrio isn’t in the top three.

The MX-5 Miata was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” for 16 of the last 28 years. The 500 Cabrio 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 500 Cabrio has never been an “All Star.”

The Mazda MX-5 Miata outsold the Fiat 500 by 67% during 2018.

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

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