With U.S. sales still more than a half-year away, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has finally settled on a name for its new two-seat sports car. Unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show, the Fiat 124 Spider revives memories of the original, sold in the U.S. from 1967 to 1985.

Developed in cooperation with Mazda, the 124 Spider is Fiat's version of the new MX-5 Miata-same 90.9-inch wheelbase, same solid structure. Beyond that, though, the 124 is almost all Fiat-exterior, interior, and powertrain.

Fiat power

The engine is Fiat's turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir 4-cylinder, rated for 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the first application of this engine in a rear-drive car. Output is similar to the Miata's 155-hp naturally aspirated 2.0-liter SkyActiv four, but the little turbo huffs up substantially more torque-180 pound-feet versus the Miata's 148.

If the Spider is going to match the Miata's under-6-second 0-to-60 mph pace, that extra grunt is likely to be important. Although chassis dimensions of the two roadsters are identical, the Fiat's body shell appears to be a little bigger, with interior furnishings that are likely to weigh a bit more than the Miata's.

Aside from engine output, Fiat furnished no specifications for the Spider. But given the Miata's modest mass-curb weights peak a little north of 2300 pounds-the new Fiat roadster is likely to weigh in substantially heavier.

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Two transmissions

There are two transmission choices, contingent on trim level. The standard model will come with a 6-speed manual, while the uplevel version will send power to the rear wheels via an Aisin 6-speed automatic. No mix 'n match. Similarly, the basic Spider will wear 16-inch wheels, while the higher trim will roll on 17-inchers. Summer performance tires will be standard on both.

While the foundations and powertrain should add up to engaging performance, the Spider's strongest suit may be styling. Drawing on the 1967 Pininfarina original for inspiration, Fiat's Turin-based Centro Stile design team has created an elegant roadster that makes a striking contrast with its mechanical cousin from Mazda.

Where the tightly-wrapped Miata looks like a world class athlete, with not an ounce of fat, the Fiat design has more sheetmetal character creases, power bulges in the hood, and an aero kickup on the rear decklid. The hexagonal grille is a particularly recognizable element from the original 124 design, and if the front and rear overhangs seem a little more pronounced than those of the Miata, the overall proportions are still pure sports car; long hood, short rear deck.

Upscale cabin

The Fiat124's interior has a more luxurious look and feel than the no-nonsense interior of the Miata, particularly in the uplevel version, with its leather upholstery and door panels. The seats are more traditional sport perches (heated in the top trim level), as distinct from the Miata's innovative thin cloth buckets. Fiat cites attention to noise suppression (not a Miata strong suit), and also a number of available safety features: blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive headlamps, and a rearview camera.

Available tech and infotainment features include a 7-inch touchscreen display with the FIAT Connect 7.0 system, navigation, Bluetooth, and Bose premium audio with speakers mounted in the headrests, as well as elsewhere in the cockpit.

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Two trim levels

The Spider does have two interior commonalities with its Mazda cousin. The manual soft top (no power option) is secured by a single header latch and can be easily operated with one hand, from the driver's seat. And the Fiat shares the Mazda's steering column which adjusts for rake, but not reach.

As noted, the 124 will be offered in two trim levels-Classico, the basic Spider, and Lusso, which is Italian for luxury. There will also be a limited launch edition of 124 cars, the Prima Edizione Lusso, loaded with every feature in the inventory, sky blue metallic finish, and tan leather interior. The 124 Spider won't appear in showrooms until summer 2016, and Fiat isn't ready to announce pricing. However, it's a good bet that the Spider price range will be higher than Mazda's MSRP ladder, which runs from $24,790 to $33,475.


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