Strictly speaking, the current Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat 124 Spider aren’t full-on competitors so much as symbiotic rivals. The Spider, which borrows its platform and interior from the fourth-generation (ND) Miata, is produced alongside the Mazda at the Japanese company’s Hiroshima production plant. Were Mazda not willing to agree to such an arrangement, it’s safe to say that Fiat wouldn’t have a modern sporty roadster in its stable, and incredibly, the inverse is also true; Robert Davis, VP of Mazda US, revealed in 2016 that there would have been no business case for a fourth-generation Miata without Fiat.
That said, the two cars occupy what’s otherwise a rather empty space in the North American market, making some competition inevitable. And now, it’s all but official that Mazda planning to up the ante for the 2019 model year, bestowing the Japan-spec MX-5 with 181 horsepower and a 7,500-rpm redline courtesy of stiffer valve springs, lighter rods and pistons, and better breathing (per Road & Track, via Car Watch). Mazda won’t yet confirm whether similar changes are in store for the US-spec Miata, which already uses a slightly lower-compression 2.0L Skyactiv engine, but we’d put our money on the affirmative.
This would leave the Fiat 124 Spider at a distinct disadvantage in the US, offering significantly less power in every available model – even the range-topping Abarth. The turbocharged 124 still ought to have the upper hand with regard to peak torque, but beside that and a preference for its more classic-looking styling, there would be little reason to buy it over the Mazda Miata. Will Fiat fire back with some powerplant upgrades of its own? So far, we’ve heard nothing about any future plans for the Japanese-Italian sports roadster, and given its miniscule US sales figures, we’d be awfully surprised if FCA bothered to spend the money.
With that, it looks like the choice between Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat 124 Spider is about to get a little bit easier.