Mazda And Alfa Romeo Tentatively Sign Best Deal Ever

It's all about the maths, really. (8C used to symbolise AR styling, not because of the V8)
The facts are these: The Mazda MX-5 is the best cheap sports car money can buy, and pretty much has been since it first appeared in 1989 (in no small part because it was channelling the original Lotus Elan and the MGB Roadster in its design and philosophy). Alfa Romeo, nine times out of ten, make beautiful, soul-stirring cars that are beautiful, stylish, soul-stirring, pretty and, er, all those words again. Now, we hear that Mazda and Alfa Romeo have signed a "non-binding Memorandum of Understanding" to co-produce a new small FR-layout roadster each, with Mazda doing the next-gen MX-5 and Alfa Romeo putting their own engine and bodywork on top to make a "new Spider", one that won't be chubby and underwhelming to drive like the recent Brera Spider and may take inspiration from the Pininfarina 2uettottanta Concept. Can you see a downside here? I can't.

Of course, "non-binding" is the important bit at the moment. As long as there's no hitch in negotiations, the final deal is expected to be signed by the end of the year, with Alfa Romeo saying their car will appear in 2015. Unlike the Toyobaru GTBRZ86R-S, each car will get its own brand-specific engine and "distinctly different" bodies, while Mazda - like Subaru in the aforementioned tie-up - building both versions of the new roadster at its Hiroshima plant. Which is in Hiroshima. Previous rumours about the next MX-5 have suggested it will weigh significantly less than 1000kg (originally 800kg, although I can't see that happening to be honest, so I reckon it'll be in the low-mid 900s, which would still be awesome) and could be powered be a 1.3 "Skyactiv" turbo engine, or potentially even a rotary engine. While Mazda is developing two rotary engines at present, they've so far avoided putting one in the MX-5, so what would change their minds now? The lack of an RX model? Demand from paying enthusiasts? Who knows. At present it's only rumours anyway. We'll of course find out more and more over the next couple of years, maybe even a concept car each.

Have Japan and Italy ever joined forces before, I hear you ask? Well yes, but it wasn't good. Alfa Romeo (again) teamed up with Nissan in the 1980s to make a mainstream family hatchback. In theory it was great; Alfa Romeo's Italian styling and flare teamed with Nissan's Japanese efficiency and reliability, what could go wrong? The Arna is what went wrong. Unfortunately, they got it completely the wrong way round, with 1980s Nissan doing the body and Alfa Romeo doing the mechanicals, making a rust-prone and unreliable car with square-edged, mind-numbing styling. Thus, one of the world's all-time crap cars came to life.

Happily, it sounds like they're not going to make the same mistake again. Alfa will simply let Mazda make their next MX-5 (having called Mazda "the recognised leader in compact rear-drive vehicle architectures"), and then the Italians will style their own version and drop their own engine into it, which I reckon might be the 1750cc turbo found in the Giulietta and the upcoming 4C flagship, or potentially a smaller 1.4 MultiAir unit to keep front-end weight down and maintain the 50:50 balance ever-present in the MX-5. Or how about a fizzy little TwinAir engine? Going slowly and having a blast is still having a blast, and Fiat are making a 100bhp+ version in the near future anyway. Whatever engine they put in there, Mazda promises a manual transmission (alongside an auto 'box for useless hairdressers), so hopefully Alfa will provide one too. They aren't doing on the 4C, which is disappointing to be honest. Please let us shift ourselves with joy, Alfa! This is the kind of thing you dream of but never imagine will actually happen!

I'll try to keep tabs on this as and when any developments arise, but as I say, that actual agreement won't be signed for a few months yet.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks! Although I'd appreciate that more if you didn't advertise your own thing at the end. Normally I mark comments for Spam when people do that.


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