“We are thinking about doing a hardtop, yes.”
Instead, it was Fiat’s head of exterior design Felix Kilbertus who dropped that line as he walked us around the Fiat 124 Spider at the Los Angeles auto show.
We didn’t think much of it at the time (of course they’d have sketches of a tin-top 124 Spider, why wouldn’t they), but the fact they are actively examining it means one thing: if a retractable hard top roof is available to Fiat, it means it’s a certainty for the 124 Spider’s brother-from-another-mother, the Mazda MX-5.
The Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider will share the same assembly line in Hiroshima, Japan.
Without the MX-5, the 124 Spider would not exist – the cost of engineering its own mass-market two-seat RWD convertible is just too great for Fiat-Chrysler, but hitching a ride on Mazda’s production line is more affordable.
And while the MX-5 and 124 Spider (above) differ significantly in terms of design and powerplant (the 124 has a turbocharged 1.4 litre that’s all-Italian, the MX-5 uses Mazda’s own atmo 1.5 and 2.0 litre motors), the engineering behind the platform, suspension, steering and roof is all determined by Mazda.
Mazda is the conductor, they dictate the engineering direction of the MX-5, and by extension the 124 Spider.
So if a Fiat designer is saying they’re taking a real close look at a hard-top convertible, odds are we’ll be seeing an MX-5 with a folding metal (or plastic) roof fairly soon.
And it makes sense. When both soft-top and hard-top versions of the previous-gen NC MX-5 were offered, the retractable hard top model accounted for a fairly high proportion of sales – around 60 percent.
Indeed, in the final years of the NC generation, the hard-top convertible was the only bodystyle you could buy from Mazda Australia. It’s an odds-on bet that when an ND hard-top emerges, it’ll be coming here.
When? We don’t know, but given the last-gen MX-5 hard-top made its debut about a year after the introduction of the fabric-roofed standard model, we could see the ND-generation hard-top break cover roughly halfway through 2016.