2020 BMW 4 Series Convertible vs. 2019 Fiat 124 Spider

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The 4 Series Convertible has standard City Collision Mitigation, 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 4 Series Convertible offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The 4 Series Convertible’s 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 4 Series Convertible offers an optional Side and Top View Cameras to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The 124 Spider only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.

Compared to metal, the 4 Series Convertible’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Fiat 124 Spider has a metal gas tank.

The 4 Series Convertible has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or 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 4 Series Convertible 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 and rearview cameras.

The BMW 4 Series Convertible weighs 1521 to 1892 pounds more than the Fiat 124 Spider. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

Warranty

The 4 Series Convertible’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the 124 Spider’s (12 vs. 5 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 4 Series Convertible for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Fiat doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the 124 Spider.

Reliability

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the 4 Series Convertible’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.

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the 4 Series Convertible has a standard 170-amp alternator (210-amp - 4 Series Convertible 6 cyl.). The 124 Spider’s 150-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

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 4 Series Convertible’s reliability 69 points higher than the 124 Spider.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the 4 Series Convertible first among compact premium cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The 124 Spider isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 7th in reliability, above the industry average. With 127 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 31st.

Engine

The 430i Convertible’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 88 more horsepower (248 vs. 160) and 74 lbs.-ft. more torque (258 vs. 184) than the 124 Spider’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cylinder. The 430i Convertible’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 84 more horsepower (248 vs. 164) and 74 lbs.-ft. more torque (258 vs. 184) than the 124 Spider Abarth’s standard 1.4 turbo 4 cylinder. The 440i Convertible’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cylinder produces 156 more horsepower (320 vs. 164) and 146 lbs.-ft. more torque (330 vs. 184) than the 124 Spider Abarth’s standard 1.4 turbo 4-cylinder.

Fuel Economy and Range

Regenerative brakes improve the 4 Series Convertible’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the 4 Series Convertible’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The 124 Spider doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The 4 Series Convertible has 3.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the 124 Spider (15.8 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Transmission and Drivetrain

The BMW 4 Series Convertible comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the 124 Spider.

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the BMW 4 Series Convertible, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the 124 Spider.

All wheel drive, available in the 4 Series Convertible, provides the best traction for acceleration in wet, dry, and icy conditions. In corners, all wheel drive allows both outside wheels to provide power, balancing the car. This allows for better handling. The Fiat 124 Spider is not available with all wheel drive.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the 4 Series Convertible’s brake rotors are larger than those on the 124 Spider:

430i

440i

124 Spider

Front Rotors

13 inches

13.4 inches

11 inches

Rear Rotors

11.8 inches

13 inches

11 inches

The 4 Series Convertible’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the 124 Spider are solid, not vented.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the 4 Series Convertible has larger standard tires than the 124 Spider (225/45R18 vs. 195/50R16). The 4 Series Convertible’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 124 Spider (F:225/40R19 & R:255/35R19 vs. 205/45R17).

The 4 Series Convertible’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 124 Spider Classica’s standard 50 series tires. The 4 Series Convertible’s optional 225/40R19 front and 255/35R19 rear tires have a lower 40 series front and 35 series rear profile than the 124 Spider Lusso/Abarth’s 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the 4 Series Convertible has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the 124 Spider Classica. The 4 Series Convertible’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the 124 Spider Lusso/Abarth.

The BMW 4 Series Convertible’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Fiat 124 Spider only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the 4 Series Convertible can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

The 4 Series Convertible 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 4 Series Convertible offers an available driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The 124 Spider’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The 4 Series Convertible has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 4 Series Convertible’s wheelbase is 19.7 inches longer than on the 124 Spider (110.6 inches vs. 90.9 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the 4 Series Convertible is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 3.6 inches wider in the rear than on the 124 Spider.

Chassis

For excellent aerodynamics, the 4 Series Convertible has standard flush composite headlights. The 124 Spider has recessed headlights that spoil its aerodynamic shape and create extra drag.

The 4 Series Convertible’s standard 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.

Passenger Space

The 4 Series Convertible has standard seating for 4 passengers; the 124 Spider can only carry 2.

The 4 Series Convertible has 3 inches more front headroom and 3.2 inches more front shoulder room than the 124 Spider.

Cargo Capacity

The 4 Series Convertible has a much larger trunk with its top down than the 124 Spider (7.8 vs. 4.9 cubic feet). The 4 Series Convertible has a much larger trunk with its top up than the 124 Spider (13.1 vs. 4.9 cubic feet).

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the 4 Series Convertible’s available trunk can be opened just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

The 4 Series Convertible uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The 124 Spider uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the 4 Series Convertible 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.

When two different drivers share the 4 Series Convertible, the memory system makes it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a memory system.

The 4 Series Convertible offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The 4 Series Convertible’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The 124 Spider’s power window switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully. Only its front windows open automatically.

The 4 Series Convertible’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The 124 Spider Classica’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the 4 Series Convertible to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the 4 Series Convertible detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The 4 Series Convertible’s sun-visors swivel front-to-side to block glare from the side windows. The 124 Spider’s visors are fixed into the windshield header.

When the 4 Series Convertible is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The 124 Spider’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The 4 Series Convertible’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

A built-in pollen filter removes pollen, exhaust fumes and other pollutants from the 4 Series Convertible’s passenger compartment. This helps prevent lung and/or sinus irritation, which can trigger allergies or asthma. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a filtration system.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the 4 Series Convertible offers an optional Active Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The 4 Series Convertible’s optional Parking Assistant can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The BMW 4 Series comes in coupe, convertible and four-door hatchback bodystyles; the Fiat 124 Spider isn’t available as a coupe or four-door.

Economic Advantages

The 4 Series Convertible will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the 4 Series Convertible will retain 45.78% to 47.7% of its original price after five years, while the 124 Spider only retains 38.93% to 40.43%.

Recommendations

The 4 Series Convertible was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” in 2014. The 124 Spider has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

The 4 Series Convertible was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2014. The 124 Spider has never been an “All Star.”

The BMW 4 Series outsold the Fiat 124 Spider by almost 9 to one during 2018.

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

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