It’s a Mazda. It’s an Alfa Romeo. Relax, folks; the clunky-looking prototype before you is both. Though it blatantly looks like a poorly-assembled version of the NC (or third-generation) Mazda MX-5 Miata, our spy photographer actually caught an early development mule for the next-generation Miata and next-generation Alfa Romeo Spider testing on the Nürburgring.
Don’t let the bodywork fool you – beneath the surface lies an all-new rear-drive architecture, which will be shared between Mazda and Alfa Romeo. Judging by the elongated MX-5 Miata hood, front fenders, and the awkward cut lines for the folding roof, it looks as if the new car will be longer than the third-generation Miata. Despite that growth, the next-gen Miata is expected to shed close to 200 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how Mazda achieves such a diet, as Takao Kijima, program manager for the MX-5, once told Autocar "alloy is out of the question, as it’s too expensive."
The sky’s the limit when it comes to powertrain speculation. Although some claim downsized, turbocharged four-cylinders – offering comparable power to today’s 167-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder yet drinking less fuel – are in the running, other reports claim Mazda is steadfast on the MX-5 remaining naturally aspirated. In that case, the next Mazda MX-5 Miata could use anything from a 1.6- to a 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder.
Perhaps the oddest possibility we’ve heard suggested thus far is that the new Mazda MX-5 Miata could even be offered with a Skyactiv-D diesel engine. We’re sure this would endear the Miata to automotive journalists even more than ever, but we’re not sure how sports car buyers would embrace such an engine, especially in the North American market.
Alfa Romeo’s version of the car – ostensibly called the Alfa Romeo Spider, a name long tied to sporty, spritely rear-wheel drive roadsters until it was applied to a front-wheel drive car in 1995 -- won’t necessarily use the same engines as its Mazda sibling. The Alfa Romeo Spider will likely raid the Fiat Group engine portfolio for powertrain, and may even share both a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder and dual-clutch transmission with the new 4C sports coupe.
Likewise, neither car is expected to share any exterior sheetmetal. Predictably, Alfa’s Spider is expected to be infused with a pinch of nostalgia, but not be an outright retro design -- much like the new 4C coupe, which was influenced by the Tipo 33 Stradale of the 1960s. There’s been some speculation that the car could resemble the comely Pininfarina 2uettottanta concept of 2010, despite the fact the new Alfa roadster is expected to be styled completely in-house.
Unlike the present Mazda MX-5 Miata, which was previewed with the 2004 Ibuki concept, Mazda hasn’t really hinted at the design direction of the next-generation car. We do expect the new roadster to abide by the automaker’s latest Kodo design language, which means the perennially rotund MX-5 Miata may finally have a little more edge.
We should learn more in the next 6-12 months, as both the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Alfa Romeo Spider are expected to enter production sometime in 2015.