Mazda and Alfa Romeo make it official
After months of rumours in the motoring press the marriage of Mazda and Alfa is official. Both firms have recently come out with statements that confirm an agreement that will see a collaboration on future models. How many models we don’t know, but we do know that the first fruit of this relationship will be the much anticipated next generation Mazda MX5.
Here are a couple of quotes that seem to sum up the rationale behind this move. Firstly from Mazda: “the agreement aims to enhance development and production efficiency and revitalise enthusiasm for open-top two-seater sports cars around the world”. Fiat (Alfa Romeo’s parent company) are singing a similar tune: “the collaboration will deliver a modern interpretation of the classic Alfa Romeo roadster utilising the latest technical solutions”.
So we can safely say that Mazda will be drawing on Alfa Romeo’s pedigree and heritage to enhance its own rather sterile image. While Fiat will be hoping some of Mazda’s reputation for reliability and advanced technology will rub off on to the famous Milanese brand.
We can also say with confidence that this won’t just be a simple case of badge engineering, as exemplified most recently by the Toyota/Subaru 86/BRZ twins. A joint statement issued by Mazda and Fiat states that the new car will be “powered by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand”. So the Alfa will have an Alfa engine or, at least, a Fiat one while the Mazda will likely feature a high tech SkyActiv unit.
The Mazda MX5 is a truly great car that lacks only one thing: a soul. Ever since its inception way back in 1989 Mazda has done everything it could to instil some classic character to the little roadster. It was endowed with a cute, retro inspired body, it has a classically proportioned double overhead cam engine, it has rear wheel drive, hell even the exhaust was specially tuned to produce a very 1960s sounding parp. It is probably the closest a manufacturer has ever got to building a mainstream replica, but still the car seems a little cold.
The exact opposite is true of Alfa Romeo’s open top sports cars. The classic/retro approach was very clearly eschewed with the Tipo 916 Spider launched in the mid 90s. It had a very modern, wedge shaped body and very non-traditional front wheel drive. But, despite the lack of traditional elements in the design, the car had character, it had soul.
Personally I find the prospect of an Alfa MX5 is mouth wateringly good. We know Mazda ‘get it’ in terms of what a classic roadster is, it’s not like Alfa is tying the knot with Toyota just to gain some reliability kudos. You can almost guarantee that the product of the marriage will be great looking, will drive well and maybe, just maybe it’ll have an Italian soul.