New Spider to have pure Alfa styling
We'll admit we were sceptical when Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne announced that the next-generation Alfa Spider would not only be made in Japan, but would also share its chassis with the 2015 Mazda MX-5.
But, as more details of these cross-cultural adoptive siblings emerge, we're starting to warm to the idea.
The new MX-5 and Alfa Spider will have the same front and rear axles, front body-shell section and, crucially, front bulkhead and windscreen. Each will be about four metres long and 1.7 metres wide, although the Spider will be a few centimetres longer than the MX, thanks to a classically-inspired front treatment with the traditional heart-shaped grille flanked by narrow, low-mounted air intakes.
By using high-strength steel for most of the shared body structure, Mazda engineers are targeting a kerb weight of less than 1100kg; bear that number in mind, we'll come back to it later.
Sadly, the 2016 Spider (expect to see it in November 2015, about six months after the MX-5's world debut) will not be derived from Pininfarina's show-stopping 2010 Duettotanta concept.
Insiders have reportedly told Autocar magazine that designers at the Fiat Centro Stilo battled for months to productionise the achingly beautiful retro-boat-tailed concept, before giving up in despair.
Be that as it may, what is known is that the new Spider has been shaped by Alfa Romeo/Maserati design chief Marco Tencone - creator of the Alfa 4C, and the new Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans - with his team in Turin, helped by a satellite studio in Japan.
The design brief was that the Spider had to have a contemporary silhouette to fit into Alfa's future all rear wheel-drive range alongside the seriously sporty 4C, but with more subtle detailing, as befits a classic 'barchetta' layout, .
Expect to see conventional headlight clusters, rather than fashionable LED units, in a body that doesn't share any exterior panels with the Mazda.
Right from the start Marchionne insisted that the new Spider would have an Italian engine; the leading candidate is the 125kW version of Fiat's turbocharged 1.4-litre MultiAir, turned through 90 degrees to drive the rear axle via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which will probably be sourced from a Japanese specialist.
That would give the Spider a power-to-weight ratio of 114kW per ton, hardly in the supercar league but on a par with the Volkswagen Golf 7 GTI.
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