Weight, handling, power output, and emissions all come into play here

Mazda is mulling over whether or not the next-gen MX-5 Miata should move into the electrification segment, something that could actually put it in line with the next-gen Porsche 718 should everything play out the right way. The important thing is that, no matter what, the next-gen MX-5 will remain light, compact, and agile, but how that’s going to happen is a mystery that Mazda still has to solve.

The Next-Gen Mazda MX-5 Miata Has to Be Hybrid

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With the extremely compact nature of the MX-5, its ability to hug corners like a bear climbing a tree, and it’s light footprint (2,332 pounds in its lights form on the U.S. market)

it would be near impossible for Mazda to turn the next-gen Miata (NE generation) into a full-scale EV.

It’s outright clear that the car has to be adapted to meet current automotive trends and increasingly stringent emissions regulations, though, so something has to give – and that’s a must if the MX-5 will survive beyond the early 2020s.

So, the answer is hybridization, and while it will come with some setbacks, it will ultimately make the next-gen Mazda MX-5 a better, more rounded car. The important part is that the MX-5 can’t go through an identity shift. It must remain lightweight, compact, and nimble, while at the same time being more eco-friendly than the current ND Miata.

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In an interview with Autocar Mazda R&D boss, Ichiro Hirose said, “The lightweighting and compact size are essential elements of MX-5, so even if we apply electrification, we have to make sure it really helps to achieve the lightweighting of the vehicle. We want to look at the best powertrain to keep the vehicle lightweight, but because of the diversifying requirements and preference, we need to explore various options.”

How the MX-5 Can Go Hybrid Without Weight Gain

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The introduction of a hybrid system comes with a natural weight gain, and that’s going to be something that’s hard to combat on a car that weighs just a little over one ton and is so small that it borders on the subcompact size scale. This is where Mazda’s job is going to be tough. The most logical answer is to drop weight elsewhere.

To help compensate for the weight of the battery and electric motr, for example, Mazda could go with a smaller engine than the current 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

It’s only good for 181 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque, anyway, and a mild reduction an easily be made up with the hybrid system.

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A good option here would be to switch to a smaller, lighter four-cylinder. Or, maybe even a three-cylinder that’s good for somewhere in the neighborhood of around 140 horsepower. The battery and electric motor could be good for closer to 50, which would give the next-gen MX-5 a mild power boost over the current model. Further weight savings will also be necessary, which means Mazda will have to incorporate lighter materials inside and out. The trick with that is, however, to do it in a way that doesn’t significantly increase the cost of production. The current MX-5 is priced between $27,080 and $31,855, and while a mild increase would be alright, pushing the MX-5 beyond the $30,000 mark in entry-level form or $35,000 mark in range-topping form could price the MX-5 right out of existence.

What Can We Expect From The Next-Gen Mazda MX-5 Miata

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The current MX-5 was introduced just four years ago and an update happened in 2019 when the 30th Anniversary Edition rolled out.

Mazda still has at least 3 years to get a working prototype ready to show the world.

We expect to see the next-gen Mazda MX-5 Miata NE in late 2022 or early 2023. If Mazda does follow suit with what I’ve said here, expect a smaller engine and fairly small motor – perhaps set up in a way that allows a nearly even exchange in terms of weight. The lighter materials inside and out could make up for the small battery pack – maybe 12 kWh at best.

That battery pack will, undoubtedly, be integrated into the floor to keep the center of gravity low.

That’s a necessity, but Mazda could go one step further and figure out how to integrate that battery into the chassis to help keep weight in check. The really troubling thing here is that a hybridized drivetrain could put an end to the option of having a manual transmission in the MX-5, and I’m not sure that will be a good play in the long run.

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The other thing to note is that the next-gen MX-5, if it does end up going hybrid, could see highway fuel economy go over the 40 mpg mark, while city driving could end up as good as 30 mpg. The current model is said to achieve 26 in the city and 34-35 mpg on the highway, so that would be a significant improvement as well.

Final Thoughts

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At this point, I have to admit that I’m not surprised to see Mazda considering hybridization for the next-gen MX-5. It’s basically a necessity with emissions regulations and electrification, even in the sports car market, is becoming more and more common. After all, the next-gen Porsche 718 could end up being an EV altogether, and the revived Toyota MR2 could also end up being an EV. This trend is only going to grow in the future until, some point, most sports cars, including the Porsche 911, BMW M Models, and even cars like the Audi R8 and TT, will feature some time of electrification. If the MX-5 can lead the pack

Source: Autocar

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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