If there’s a nicer place to be on a sunny afternoon than a winding two-lane road behind the wheel of the Fiat 124 Spider (with the top down, of course) we honestly can’t think of it.
Yes, this two-seat roadster is every bit that agreeable. Built on the underpinnings of the highly regarded Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Spider is a different but no less enjoyable car. For starters, virtually every surface has been reworked to give the Fiat a distinctive look with a uniquely Italian fl air.
The parts you can’t see are equally noteworthy, starting with Fiat’s exclusive turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The luxury-oriented Lusso model I drove made optimal use of this motor with its precise six-speed manual gearbox (a less-engaging six-speed automatic is available as an option). The suspension has been retuned to give this version a slightly plusher ride quality without altering the crisp handling that makes the car such a pleasure to drive on said meandering strip of asphalt.
In short, the Fiat 124 Spider is more than just a Miata with a Fiat badge slapped on it. It’s one of those affordable cars that makes you feel like a million bucks behind the wheel.
Base Price: $24,995
MPG: 26 city, 35 highways
Crash Test: N/A
Call me a contrarian, but I don’t put much stock in the badges cars wear – I’m simply not impressed with Mercedes’ three-pointed star or BMW’s blue-and-white roundel. No, what impresses me is bang for the buck and the new Kia Stinger has that in abundance.
This midsize four-door hatchback with the sport sedan looks combines head-turning styling with stirring performance. All in a package that can be many thousands less than comparable models from those trendy European brands. Add a comfortable passenger cabin with generous room for four adults and a plethora of comfort and safety features and you have a car that compares favorably with anything in its class.
The top-of-the-line GT2 AWD version I drove was powered by a twin-turbocharged, 3.3-liter V-6 that puts out a healthy 365 horsepower (a still-sprightly 255 horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is standard). The ride quality is firm but perfectly acceptable and the sporty handling rivals that of many more spendy sport sedans.
I strongly recommend the Kia Stinger as an affordable alternative for those not afflicted with badge-envy.
Base Price: $25,390
MPG: 43 city, 41 highway
Crash Test: 5 stars
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