With a history that began in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 is one of the best sold convertibles on the market. In its 21 years of history, the MX-5 saw three different generations, numerous design updates, and even more engine changes. However, the most impressive update has been announced for the fourth generation that is set to be launched in 2012.
The Mazda MX-5 will remain a rear-wheel drive compact sports coupe with exterior design inspired by the Shinari Concept unveiled earlier this year. With the new generation, Mazda will focus on reducing the total weight to less than 1,000 kilos.
At the launch of the Shinari concept, Ikuo Maeda, general manager of Mazda Motor Corp.’s design division said: "this design will lead to the next generation of Mazda design and will lead to other elements." Guess the MX-5 will be among the first to adopt Mazda’s new "Kodo - Soul of Motion" design language.
Update 4/17/2014: The 2015 MX-5’s chassis and engine debuted at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, and its lightweight construction will help drop 220 pounds from the MX-5’s weight. See more after the jump.
Hit the jump to read more about the fourth generation Mazda MX-5.
UPDATE 05/03/2013: Rumors have emerged that an unexpected engine will join the MX-5 lineup. See more after the jump.
Exterior and Interior
The body of the next generation MX-5 will be made in steel, but it will feature high-strength panels, and some ingenious structural solutions, such as a twin-backbone frame, to solve the problem of open-top rigidity.
One of the most unmistakable characteristics attributed to the previous generation of the MX-5 Miata is the large grille that it look like it was on a perpetual caffeine fix. The fourth generation MX-5 did away with that in favor of a more basic grille that’s similar to what we saw on the original Miata.
The headlights of the MX-5 was also given a make-over where it now carries a distinct up-slanting teardrop shape with LED lighting technology. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that the new lighting configuration is also pretty similar to the original’s set-up. Meanwhile, the interior will get sports seats and different aluminum insertions.
An unnamed source reports that the MX-5 will hit showrooms in 2015 with a lighter body and chassis, and a sportier look than the current model. The estimated weight the source gave was 1,000 kg (2,204 lbs), which is 276 lbs less than the 2012 model. In a car as small as the Miata, that is significant weight loss, to say the least.
There is also talk that Mazda will offer its roadster up with many more options that will help give the car more of a personality. This will help form a stronger bond between the person and the car. Typically, Miata owners already have this bond with their car, but a little extra something can’t hurt.
Lastly, there will be a top-end model, similar to the Mazdaspeed version in 2004 and 2005, that will be even lighter yet and more tuned for racing, as it will be stripped of unnecessary add-on features to save every ounce.
There was one bit of info on the project altogether and it is that Mazda will only provide the platform (chassis, uni-body, and drivetrain); Alfa Romeo will add on its own body and interior. So scratch the evil idea that we’ll have two almost identical cars.
Under the hood of the future Mazda MX-5, it was originally thought that there would be a newly developed 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder engine that would produce around 125 horsepower, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. As for the US-spec model of the Miata, Mazda will offer a 2.0-liter engine that produces north of 145 horsepower that’s also mated to a six-speed manual transmission with an option to change it to a dual-clutch semi-automatic transmission.
The new engine will reportedly feature variable cam phasing, lighter, low-friction reciprocating parts, and possibly a new exhaust manifold design, all of them as part of Mazda’s SkyActiv engineering campaign.
As of August 2012, an unnamed source has stated that Mazda has chosen an engine already and it is a 1.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It pumps out a healthy 200 horsepower, which is 22 horsepower more than the 2004 and 2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 produced and 33 horsepower more than the current model . We’re also certain that we’ll see torque cresting the 200 pound-feet mark, though there was no mention of that.
In May 2013, rumors emerged that the MX-5 lineup will carry a diesel option in the form of a 1.6-liter SkyActiv-D engine with around 130 horsepower. The rumors are unconfirmed, but the source also claims that since a diesel roadster is a tough sell to traditional Miata buyers, gasoline options will still be available.
By looking at the images from the 2014 New York Auto Show, it appears that there will be a four-cylinder, aluminum engine powering the next-gen MX-5. Though Mazda is going the SkyActiv route on so many of its vehicles, it has been rather clear in saying that the chassis is SkyActive, but it hasn’t mentioned anything about the engine having this technology. The display at the NYIAS had the end of the exhaust manifold cut off, and we cannot tell if this engine is going to be turbocharged or not. Judging by the direction the manifold goes, it does not appear that a turbo is in the works.
The chassis that Mazda displayed at the 2014 NYIAS showed a front-midship, rear-wheel-drive layout, with the engine pushed closer to the middle of the vehicle. This is the first time that Mazda will use this front-midship setup in a rear-wheel-drive, SkyActiv setup. In true SkyActiv fashion, the chassis will feature tons of aluminum, which will help push the MX-5’s weight down by about 100 kg (220 pounds), while maintaining rigidity and safety. Along with the weight savings, Mazda also said that the next-gen MX-5’s footprint will be closer to the first-gen Miata’s, and the center of gravity will be lower than any MX-5.
When Can I Buy One?
The fourth generation Mazda MX-5 is expected to be launched in 2013 with sales beginning in early 2014. Pricing for the car has yet to be announced but as is the case with most of the MX-5’s line-up of models, you can safely assume that it’ll come at a base price of £17,990, which is a little under $30,000 based on current exchange rates.
The new Mazda MX-5 will have to face models like the Mini Cooper S Convertible and the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder . However, Kia has also recently announced that the company plans a small sports car due out in early 2013 that will take on models like the MX-5.
Some good news for Mazda is that Mitsubishi plans to drop the Eclipse model, so that will be one less vehicle nipping at the Mazda;s heels. The real competition sits with the Cooper S which is getting better with every year. For 2011, it will be offered with a new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a new 2.0-liter. The model is offered with high-quality materials and an extremely harmonious color scheme.
- Fourth generation of the iconic MX-5
- New grille is much better than the smiley version
- There’s a reason why its so popular
- Still not as powerful as we’d hope
- Not the cheapest option on the market