Vijay Pattni24 July 2014

Is Seat planning a roadster?

Former design chiefs tell TG that Spanish firm is ‘open’ to MX-5 rival

The former design boss of Lamborghini, Luc Donckerwolke, has admitted to TopGear.com that Seat should build a two-seat roadster to rival the Mazda MX-5.

Speaking at an anniversary event celebrating 30 years of the Seat Ibiza, Donckerwolke - who himself penned the fourth generation Ibiza, not to mention the Lamborghini Murcielago and Gallardo - noted that senior figures in the Spanish company ‘is dreaming about it'.

"From a designer's point of view, we all believe this car will bring the image that Seat needs, and it would be a fitting car," Donckerwolke told us. "We're the first ones to want it, but the problem, as you know, is the business case. But we're all thinking about it. I did a concept when I was chief designer here at Seat, and I think Alejandro [Mesonero-Romanos, current Seat design chief] should do one too."

Seat has form with roadster design studies. In 1999, Seat built the ‘Formula' concept, a mid-engined two-seater. Then came the Tango concept, penned by de Silva, and more recently we saw the two-seat Ibiza Cupster Concept, built for Worthersee.

"It's exactly the sort of car Seat should be doing, and there's not a single one of us [former Seat designers] who hasn't done a concept version," Donckerwolke added.

(On a side note, Donckerwolke also reckons Lambo should resurrect the Espada, too. "I can definitely see another one," he said, "the old one was like an Italian Rolls-Royce. I think there's space for it today.")

Walter de Silva, who penned the Seat Tango roadster concept in 2001 and was responsible for the first ever Ibiza, agrees with Donkerwolke. De Silva has also designed the likes of the Audi R8, Audi TT, Lamborghini Egoista and Miura concept, so knows a thing or two about racy design.

"The question about a Seat Spider in our Group is always open," de Silva told us. "And if you think about it, the market isn't really growing either. The only offer you have at the moment is the Mazda MX-5.

"Tell me, if you have to buy a roadster that's not too expensive and doesn't land you in the premium or luxury segments, what competitors are there? So the question for us is always open."

De Silva noted that today's young generation seem less interested in design than in connectivity, but still feels there's room for a proper sports car in the market. "What you talk about is a traditional Spider. Why not? For me, I'd love to have a Spider. But as you know, it's difficult for Seat in this moment."

Perhaps one for the future, then. Right now, of course, Seat is gearing up for the upcoming new fifth-gen Ibiza - more on that later - along with a new SUV. Yes, that's right, Seat will build an SUV.

Announced a few months back, Seat boss Jürgen Stackmann confirmed that everything was on track for the SUV's 2016 launch.

"Our design phase for the SUV is close to being finished," he told TG.com, "and it will be a design you will expect from Seat. We're working now towards the industrialisation of the car, making sure that the business promise for the company can be fulfilled."

Not only that, but there could be a potential Leon ST Cupra - a hot, small, fast estate - too. "This is clearly in reach," Stackmann admitted to us. "It's an idea that could work, and one that you can see actually happening, but right now the next step for Leon is the X-Perience." That's the high-riding, soft-roading Leon.

There's definitely a buzz about Barcelona right now, not least because Seat is enjoying a sales renaissance, with the Leon selling as much as Ibiza for the first time. "That's a new experience for us," Stackmann said.

So, a light, cheap Seat roadster. Would you?

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