► Fiat 124 Spider scooped
► Based on Mazda MX-5 mechanicals
► All the spyshots, specs and details
We've finally caught the new 2016 Fiat 124 Spider out on test with its roof down, providing our best look yet at the MX-5 based Italian roadster.
The Fiat group set chatrooms alight with its May 2012 announcement that it was developing an Alfa Romeo roadster in association with Mazda. But in late 2014 it became apparent that Milan was substituting in Fiat and Abarth convertibles instead of Alfa Romeos. Now we can see firm evidence of what we can expect from the Italian sports car - which is tipped to reuse the 124 Spider name from the history books.
Japanese heart, Italian wardrobe: the Fiat 124 Spider
The global market for sports cars remains challenged - so it makes perfect sense for both Mazda and Fiat to collaborate on this project. The Japanese will build the soft-top in the regular MX-5 factory, but it will be rebodied and re-engineered to provide distinctive products, we hear.
CAR magazine's new spyshots suggest there's plenty of MX-5 in the Italian version, but insiders are adamant the front and rear ends will be markedly different. And is that bonnet venting on this prototype? If so, it would tally with our intelligence that the Italian 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engines are destined to power the Fiat sports car twins, which are destined for global sale.
We hear that the fast Fiats will use the 1.4, which can be tuned for anything from 140-200bhp. Why not the larger 1750 engine from the Alfa Romeo 4C? That's being reserved for Alfas, we understand. So Mazda is keeping its Skyactiv non-turbo engines to itself, but much of the rear-wheel drive chassis will remain - which bodes well for handling, gearchange quality and more. We can also see that the MX-5's delightfully simple manual canvas hood will continue unchanged on the Fiat (see it in action in our spyshots gallery above).
When can I buy a Fiat 124?
Word is this car could be shown at the Los Angeles motor show in November 2015, to launch it into the world's biggest sports car market before global sales begin in 2016. That would be half a century after its forebear, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider (below), which ran from 1966-'69. European versions are due to land in autumn 2016.