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Auto blogFri, 18 Jan 2013
Although a little bit later than expected, Mazda and Fiat have signed a final agreement that will bring a next-generation MX-5 Miata to the Japanese automaker and a new roadster to Alfa Romeo. When the proposed arrangement was announced back in May, the two automakers had hoped to seal the deal last year, but it doesn't appear that the production timeline for these cars has slipped any, with both expected to start rolling off assembly lines in 2015.
Other than a shared chassis with a rear-wheel-drive layout, it sounds like the two cars are still planned to be distinct in their own ways from their styling right down to their engines. Mazda will produce both cars at a plant in Hiroshima, Japan, but it isn't clear what role each automaker will play in the cars' developmental process. The big question, of course, is what clever portmanteau name we can come up with, like Toyobaru. Mazda Romeo is the easy choice, but Alfazda might roll off the tongue a little better.
Scroll down for a brief press release from both automakers.
Twenty-six years after it was introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the much anticipated fourth generation Mazda MX-5 Miata will meet the press at the 2015 Chicago show. A piece in Autocar refines some of the details on the larger, lighter Miata that a Mazda insider has said will be "our best-looking car ever."
The company has relented on the quest for the metric tonne, the 1000-kilogram (2,200-pound) target too difficult to achieve in light of cost constraints. You can still expect it to lose a generous dollop of weight - Autocar says a curb weight of 1,100 kg (2,420 pounds) will still make it the lightest in its class. And Mazda will be stressing a fun driving experience through light weight and a modest amount of naturally-aspirated horsepower. Engine capacities of 1.5 and 2.0 liters are expected. Sounds familiar (and good), right?
The Miata's interpretation of Kodo design will be veer from that found on the Mazda3 and Mazda6, with "very clean and simple" lines marking out "more muscular proportions" and elongated bodywork on a longer wheelbase. A stretched engine bay will make room for the current Skyactiv engine and perhaps the future Skyactiv 2 powerplants, initial reports suggesting there could be a 30-percent increase in fuel economy from the moment it arrives.
According to Edmunds, Mazda engineers are pressuring the company to create more rear-wheel-drive models, in an effort to better differentiate itself from its rivals. This push is reportedly coming from middle and senior engineers within the company, and these folks at Mazda believe this rear-drive strategy would allow the automaker to produce more distinctive, fun to drive cars. Mazda discontinued the rear-drive (and rotary-engined) RX-8 a few years ago, leaving the MX-5 Miata as the company's only RWD offering.
As enthusiasts, we're fully on board with Mazda offering more rear-drive cars, but unsurprisingly, the company's top management isn't exactly keen on the idea - and with good reason. First and foremost, the cost associated with redesigning fresh architecture for new models would be very high, and considering the fact that Mazda hasn't exactly been raking in the dough lately, an expensive new venture like this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. What's more, Mazda's latest front-drive models - the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5 - have been very well-received, and are helping the company gain sales momentum.
But that doesn't mean there aren't other options. Edmunds reminds us that Mazda is already partnering with Alfa Romeo on the next-generation Miata, and if this collaboration is successful, perhaps the relationship could bear additional fruit. After all, Alfa Romeo is said to be working on returning to its rear-wheel-drive roots, so Mazda's engineers might be able to make a case for more RWD goodness after all.