2020 BMW Z4 vs. 2019 Fiat 124 Spider

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Z4’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The Z4 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 Z4 has standard Post-Crash Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The Z4’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 Z4 offers optional Park Distance Control to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or in front of their vehicle. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a front parking aid.

The Z4’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

The Z4 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 Z4 and the 124 Spider have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact 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.

The BMW Z4 weighs 771 to 1021 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.


The Z4’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the 124 Spider’s (12 vs. 5 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the Z4 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.


A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Z4’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 start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Z4 has a standard 800-amp battery (900 M40i). The 124 Spider’s 450-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

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.


The Z4 sDrive30i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. produces 95 more horsepower (255 vs. 160) and 111 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 184) than the 124 Spider’s standard 1.4 turbo 4-cyl. The Z4 sDrive30i’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. produces 91 more horsepower (255 vs. 164) and 111 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 184) than the 124 Spider Abarth’s standard 1.4 turbo 4-cyl. The Z4 M40i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cyl. produces 218 more horsepower (382 vs. 164) and 184 lbs.-ft. more torque (368 vs. 184) than the 124 Spider Abarth’s standard 1.4 turbo 4-cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

Regenerative brakes improve the Z4’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The Z4 has 1.8 gallons more fuel capacity than the 124 Spider (13.7 vs. 11.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.


The BMW Z4 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 Z4, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the 124 Spider.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Z4’s brake rotors are larger than those on the 124 Spider:

Z4 sDrive30i

Z4 M40i

124 Spider

Front Rotors

13 inches

13.7 inches

11 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

13.6 inches

11 inches

The Z4’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.

The Z4 stops much shorter than the 124 Spider:


124 Spider

70 to 0 MPH

146 feet

171 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Z4 has larger standard tires than the 124 Spider (F:225/45R18 & R:255/40R18 vs. 195/50R16). The Z4’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 124 Spider (F:255/35R19 & R:275/35R19 vs. 205/45R17).

The Z4’s standard 225/45R18 front and 255/40R18 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series front and 40 series rear profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 124 Spider Classica’s standard 50 series tires. The Z4’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the 124 Spider Lusso/Abarth’s 45 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Z4 has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the 124 Spider Classica. The Z4’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the 124 Spider Lusso/Abarth.

The BMW Z4’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.

Suspension and Handling

The Z4 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 Z4 offers an optional 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 Z4 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 Z4’s wheelbase is 6.3 inches longer than on the 124 Spider (97.2 inches vs. 90.9 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Z4 is 4.4 inches wider in the front and 3.9 inches wider in the rear than the track on the 124 Spider.

The Z4’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (49.9% to 50.1%) than the 124 Spider’s (53.5% to 46.5%). This gives the Z4 more stable handling and braking.

The Z4 sDrive30i handles at 1.00 G’s, while the 124 Spider Abarth pulls only .87 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.


For excellent aerodynamics, the Z4 has standard flush composite headlights. The 124 Spider has recessed headlights that spoil its aerodynamic shape and create extra drag.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Z4 sDrive30i is quieter than the 124 Spider Abarth:


124 Spider

At idle

48 dB

50 dB


82 dB

84 dB

70 MPH Cruising

70 dB

75 dB

Passenger Space

The Z4 has 1.5 inches more front headroom and 2.2 inches more front shoulder room than the 124 Spider.

Cargo Capacity

The Z4 has a much larger trunk than the 124 Spider (9.9 vs. 4.9 cubic feet).

Servicing Ease

The Z4 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.


The Z4 offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Z4 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 Z4, the memory system makes it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver and front passenger’s seat positions, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a memory system.

The Z4 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 Z4’s front power windows open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The 124 Spider’s power windows’ switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully.

In case of a sudden change of weather, the Z4 offers an optional remote convertible top that can be raised from a distance to protect the interior of the vehicle from damage. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a remote top, so the driver will have to run to the car, get in and manually raise the top to prevent the interior from being damaged.

The Z4’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.

The Z4 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 124 Spider has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Lusso/Abarth.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Z4 detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The Z4’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.

The Z4’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Fiat offers heated mirrors for extra charge, but only on the 124 Spider Lusso/Abarth.

When the Z4 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.

On extremely cold winter days, the Z4’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Z4’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 Z4’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 Z4 offers an optional Adaptive 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 Z4’s optional Parking Assistant can parallel park by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The 124 Spider doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

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

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