Two great open-air, 2-seat roadsters have hit the marketplace recently: the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Both are spirited, lightweight, and fun to drive. The question is, which do you choose?
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider (see our Alfa Romeo 4C Overview) is equipped with a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that produces 237 hp at 6,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. The Mazda Miata MX-5 (read our Overview) comes equipped with a 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with 155 hp at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm.
The two roadsters are both lightweight by American standards. The Alfa Romeo weighs in at 2,487 pounds, while the Miata has a curb weight of 2,332 pounds. (By the way, Mazda doesn’t mind that we call it a Miata, even if its proper name is the MX-5 Miata.) In spite of the Spider’s abundance of carbon fiber, the Miata is lighter.
Mazda calls this Miata the fastest ever, with a 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds. The 4C Spider has been tested at 4.7 seconds.
Edge: The edge goes to the Spider based on its horsepower-to-weight ratio of .095. The Miata ranks at .066.
There’s a sense of lightness about both vehicles, especially when they’re being pushed hard through curves. Some criticize the body roll of the Miata, but it has the challenge of being a tourer for most of its purchasers. The 4C Spider is much more of a performance car and capable of being pushed much harder on twisty roads.
Edge: The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider performs better on a track, but the Miata does just as well in everyday driving situations.
The design of the Alfa Romeo is more visually engaging. It’s more arresting, but the Miata is pretty sharp, too. However, in terms of driving dynamics, the Miata offers much better visibility. Backing up a 4C Spider always feels like a white-knuckle operation (and I watched an auto journalist almost back it into another car because she just couldn’t see behind it).
Edge: The Miata is better designed for everyday driving.
Of the two, the Miata wins hands down when it comes to interior comfort and functionality. It has a unique seat design with high-tension cloth mesh instead of traditional springs and foam. The 4C Spider’s seats are better bolstered and will hug you better in tight curves. The Miata also feels better laid out for both passenger and driver.
Edge: The Miata wins for its comfortable seats and overall dashboard layout.
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider comes with two panels you need to remove and place in the trunk. It takes only about a minute, but it’s something you need to plan. You can’t drop the top at a stoplight. (Well, you could, but it might annoy the people behind you.) The Miata simply requires a couple of clicks, and the top is down.
Edge: The Miata wins for its simplicity, especially if you get caught in a sudden downpour.
Obviously, there’s a significant cost difference. Pricing for the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider begins at $63,900 (plus a $1,595 dealer destination charge). A base Miata can be yours for $24,915 plus a destination charge of $820.
The Final Call
Both the Miata and the 4C Spider are going to be excellent track cars, but the Alfa Romeo is ready to race out of the box. The Mazda needs modifications. The 4C Spider seems like a second car, while the Miata could legitimately be a daily driver (especially because you don’t need to be a contortionist to exit and enter, as you do with the Alfa).
It’s pretty clear: The smart choice is the Miata MX-5. It’s comfortable in all the right ways, but easily unleashes satisfying performance—all at a good price. The Alfa’s a track car, while the Miata is the right car.
Shopping for a new or used sports car this weekend?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals, and research cars on your smartphone.