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Mazda won't build a Miata coupe, but Fiat could be up to the challenge

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Ronan Glon/Digital Trends

Fiat might build the Miata coupe that Mazda insists won’t happen under its watch, while reviving an iconic nameplate that has laid dormant for decades.

The Italian automaker is in the early stages of turning the Miata-based 124 Spider into a coupe, according to British magazine Autocar. And while Mazda already offers a version of the Miata with a retractable hard top, the 124-based coupe is being developed with a fixed roof like the original model that was sold from 1967 to 1975. Insiders have revealed that the model could look a lot like the Abarth 124 Rally concept (pictured) that was introduced earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show.

Some sources claim the 124 Coupe will feature a hatchback like the BMW Z4 Coupe that was built until 2008, a feature that will make it considerably more practical than rivals like the Toyota 86. Others affirm that fitting the coupe with a hatch is too costly because it requires substantially re-engineering the Miata’s body, so the 124 Coupe will use the same trunk lid and rear section as the Spider model.

Another point of debate is which engine the coupe should use. Some markets will get a turbocharged 1.4-liter with just 138 horsepower, while others will receive an evolution of the turbo four tuned to provide 168 horsepower. Finally, a handful of Fiat executives are pushing for a sport-focused model powered by a 178-horsepower 1.4-liter tweaked by Abarth. Regardless, rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission will come standard, and an automatic gearbox will be available at an extra cost.

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If the rumor is accurate, the 21st-century Fiat 124 Coupe could make its official debut as early as next year and go on sale as a 2018 model. It will cost about 10 percent more than the coupe, meaning it will carry a base price of approximately $27,500.