Thursday, November 19, 2015

Swing And A Miss (The New Fiat 124 Sport Spider)

Above and below: To give it it's due, the car's best angle, and a cockpit that contains very little to complain about.  But
then the MX-5's cockpit has been acknowledged as a great place for decades.

I've been eagerly awaiting this car since the teaser show car version morphed from an Alfa Romeo into a Fiat.  Production cars rarely look as good as show cars done to hype interest and get feedback.  But Alfa and Fiat have been turning out some good-looking cars lately.  And the original PininFarina-designed 124 Sport Spider was such a benchmark car that (one would think) Fiat would take great care with its namesake.

What we got instead is a reskinned Miata.  This is surprising but not amazing, and a disappointment.  Fiat wants (and needs) to leverage its ownership of Chrysler into market penetration for its imports.  Mazda knows the American market well, and needs cash.  But the new car is an MX-5 rolling chassis with a Fiat engine and tranny.  It's not a joint venture on a shared basic internal architecture that will be taken in two different directions, amounting to two different cars.

It's hard to know who the targeted buyers are.  The new 124 Sport Spider isn't a hard-core sports car, but then, neither was the classic one.  It had an undeserved reputation--as has the Miata--as a girly car.  Presumably the Fiat will priced well north of the entry-level MX-5 on which it is based ($25K) but not way above what a "loaded" MX-5 goes for (slightly north of $30K).  And probably less than a (as yet nonexistent) fast, hard-core, MazdaSpeed Edition of the MX-5 (a bit under $35K?).  So why not just buy the new MX-5 that's to your taste?

Maybe because you don't get that "Italian flair?"  But that's exactly where the new 124 Sport fails.  At least for me.

Above and below: my Bill Of Particulars against the 124 Sport Spider: a stubby, chopped off, profile, a rear fender crease
line extending into the door, which is intended to echo the classic line in the same location, but which instead makes the
car look fat.  A front end that's too busy and dis-integrated (and another effort to "paste" detail elements of the sharp-
edged classic onto a rounded MX-5 shape).  Even the "power bulges" on the classic's hood (not clearly visible in
any of these pix) just make the new car look overly busy, with no unifying theme.

Above: the clean, partly creased, partly rounded lines of the classic 124 Sport Spider.
Below: when the concept car was an Alfa Romeo, headed in the right direction.
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