Matthew Jones06 May 2014

Is Alfa's 'MX-5' actually an Abarth?

A mysterious ‘Speciality’ model has just appeared under Fiat plans. Is it a two-seat roadster pinched from Alfa Romeo? Possibly…

Is Alfa's 'MX-5' actually an Abarth?

In 2012, Alfa Romeo and Mazda announced that in 2015 Mazda would build a version of the next MX-5 with Alfa design mods, and Alfa engines, to give Alfa its own small roadster.

But at the Geneva show three months ago we checked on its progress with the Fiat/Alfa/Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, and he came over all slippery. He said it didn't necessarily have to be an Alfa, but that it would find a home somewhere in his group.

Now, after rummaging through five-year plans released today from each of Fiat Chrysler's brands, including, of course, Alfa, it looks like the collaboration will wear a Fiat badge. Or maybe an Abarth badge.

See, the documents tell us that in late 2015, Fiat will release a new, mysterious car known only as ‘Speciality'. Thing is, there's nothing in any other of the Fiat Group plans - including Alfa's - that suggest anything remotely MX-5-shaped.

The documents also reveal Fiat's splitting its range - and showrooms - into two. On the one side, there's aspirational, design-led stuff like the 500. And on the other, rugged, economical stuff like the Panda.

There are firm plans for Bravo and Punto replacements, which would fit more naturally into the unshaved, eco camp. That leaves the 500 range as Fiat's sole source of profits from its customisable, premium arm, which seems unlikely. Even if it does insist on spinning every conceivable variation from the little platform.

Provided it had new sheet metal, a small, customisable MX-5-sized roadster would slot perfectly into Fiat's new world order. But it does present a problem: differentiation. The 500 is many things, but paragon of sporting wondrousness isn't one of them. Abarth cache would help, and considering the proposed Alfa version was rumoured to use the 1.4-litre MultiAir engine from the 500 Abarth, seems obvious.

Given the choice, what would you prefer? An Alfa or Abarth MX-5?

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