Mountain Drive! 2017 FIAT 124 Spider – By Anthony Fongaro

Colorado is an amazing place to drive!

While visiting this great state, I was lucky enough to attend RMDE, or the Rocky Mountain Driving Event.

This event had different vehicles from various manufacturers. Part of this event included driving 90 minutes, or 3,000 feet up a mountain. If you couldn’t guess, the car that I drove was a little black Fiat convertible.

The car in question was a 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso. Before the drive, I put down the manual convertible top and let the beautiful scenery of Colorado surround me. Then I put the car into gear. And by gear, I mean I put it into Drive because this was an Automatic 124 Spider. As I set off, the car in front of me, a Kia Sportage SX, was also driving to the same destination as I was. Since this particular 124 Spider did not have the Premium Collection which includes navigation, I figured I could follow the Kia up. That’s where things started to become a bit difficult.

Already starting in Denver, the 124 was at a disadvantage because it was over 5,000 feet in the air. Simply putting your foot down when you have to accelerate at that altitude resulted in a pleasant sound from the exhaust, but not the initial acceleration I was looking for. Since the 124 comes with a 160 hp 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, the power does not come on right away. The best way to get acceleration when you’re trying to follow a small crossover up a mountain is to use the manual mode. Paddle shifters would have been a nice option but those only come if you go to the top-of-the-line Abarth model.

So the 124 felt like it was down on power, but what it lacked in power, it made up for in its steering and breaking. Once I was able to catch up with the Kia Sportage in front of me, I was able to claw my way around the twisty parts of the road with ease. The 124 is also a very comfortable convertible. The Lusso trim is the luxury version of the 124 and the leather felt much better than anything the Mazda Miata it is based off of has to offer.

The interior may feel luxurious, but it is basically based off of the Mazda Miata. The drive up consisted of listening to the engine since I wasn’t able to get any radio stations. As of this writing, Fiat does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Other than the automatic, the one option that this 124 Spider was the Safety and Comfort Collection package that included the Blind Spot and Cross Detection System, something that’s useful with every car that passed me up.

When my stint in the 124 Spider was over, I had one question looming: does this car belong here? Where I live in Chicagoland, the answer would be yes. The 124 Spider is a very handsome car which has various styling cues to the 124 Spiders of the 60s and 70s. But on a mountain road that climbs 3,000 feet up, the 124 was not having a lot of fun. Mainly, this was due to the engine and transmission combination. If the car was a manual and had more power, I feel the 124 would be more enjoyable to drive.


Action Photos by Nathan Leach Proffer at Speed-Photos

What do you think?