The Mazda MX-5 was so revolutionary in ‘rekindling the romance of affordable, open-top sports cars’ that today it is one of the world’s biggest-selling roadsters. Since the Mazda MX-5 was launched in 1989, an increase in demand has led to a number of other manufacturers following suit, including the ‘Japanese-built Fiat 124 Spider built on the same platform but using an Italian engine’. Although the cars are very similar in some aspects, for example the ‘insides are almost indistinguishable’, there are a lot of differences that ultimately make the Mazda MX-5 ‘the established class leader’.
From the outside it is unlikely you would know that the cars are related. The Mazda MX-5 is a‘clean, compact collection of crisp lines and tight curves’. In comparison, the Fiat is described as having ‘a more traditional and, sadly, rather slabby shape’. These differences continue with engine choice. The Mazda MX-5 has ‘stuck to its old-school guns with a naturally aspirated 2-litre in-line four-cylinder unit’. In comparison, Fiat has elected to go with its ‘turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir motor’. Although the performance is said to be relatively close, the ‘Mazda MX-5 manages to hit 62mph in 7.3 seconds versus the Fiat’s 7.5 seconds’.
The weight difference in the slimmer and lighter Mazda MX-5 and benefits of a more ‘memorable, responsive and potent engine’ allow for improvements in handling, with the Mazda MX-5 giving ‘a welcome amount of feel, together with an energy and effervescence that pervades the whole car’. The Fiat 124 Spider, however, which lacks front-end bite and the Mazda MX-5’s limited-slip diff, also lacks ‘enthusiasm for the kind of hijinks the Mazda MX-5 happily delivers’.
evo argues that although there are a number of similarities, it is only the Mazda MX-5 ‘that delivers on promise’ […] ‘It is more energetic, boasts the more responsive engine and has that limited-slip diff which brings the chassis to life’. The Mazda ‘really looks and feels like the definitive affordable roadster’.