The ND Miata Will Underpin an Abarth Roadster, not an Alfa
Two years ago, when a collaboration between the Fiat Group and Mazda was announced, the deal mentioned that the recently unveiled Mazda MX-5 Miata will get a brother in the form of an Alfa Romeo roadster built on the same platform. Earlier today we found out that this will not be the case anymore, with the head of the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands letting it slip in an interview with Car Magazine that the original idea is actually all wrong.
Apparently, the future Alfa Romeo Spider will not use the MX-5 Miata’s ND platform and will therefore not be manufactured at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant. Instead, a yet-to-be-named Fiat/Abarth product will be based on the ND Miata. According to a transcript of the interview that Alfa and Maserati chief Harald Wester gave to the British magazine, it seems that "As far as the Spider goes, the final version is of course no longer the two-seater FCA [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] codeveloped with Mazda but a derivative of project Giorgio."
As some of you know, "project Giorgio" is a new modular architecture derived from the one underpinning the current Maserati Ghibli and Quattroporte, which will be used in the future on pretty much every RWD Alfa Romeo and some Dodge/Chrysler models. Mazda’s ND platform is still part of the agreement though, and it will be used by either a standalone and long-rumored Abarth roadster or a modern-day variant of the old Fiat 124 Sport Spider, or maybe both. Either way, it won’t be an Alfa.
Click past the jump to read more about the Alfa Romeo Spider.
Why it matters
The mere fact that an Alfa Romeo was about to be as light, as fun to drive and as well built as a Mazda MX-5 Miata kept most fans of the brand on their toes and probably giggling with excitement about the end result. It was also a bit odd from some points of view though, especially since the original MX-5 Miata was actually a modern-day take on the old British and Italian lightweight roadsters from the 1960s, including the first Alfa Romeo Spider.
While the news that Alfa will not in fact use that platform for their roadster may be seen a bit on the negative side, it may actually be a very good idea if you take a look at the bigger picture. Sure, the Mazda Miata is already in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling two-seat sports car in history, but in Europe it never made an impact, with the exception of the UK.
On the old continent, a more grown-up modern version of the Alfa Spider, such as one using a common platform with other models in the future lineup, may be better for both Alfa Romeo and for its customers. Why do I say that? Well, first of all using the Mazda ND architecture would have meant that its availability would be rather scarce and highly dependent of the production plant in Hiroshima, Japan. Second of all, being built overseas may have also jacked up its price quite a bit. Last, but certainly not least, the engines available would have probably been limited to four-cylinders as a larger and very Alfa-esque V-6 would have probably required too much investments in retooling.
Additionally, an Abarth flagship sports car or a resurrection of the Fiat 124 Sports Spider or Barchetta using the Mazda ND platform could actually work out much better for one simple reason: all the above disadvantages would be negated by a smaller production run and slightly higher prices in case of the Abarth. Whatever happens in the end, the fourth generation of the Mazda Miata will get some Italian clothes regardless.