Activating stealth bomber mode on the best-looking ND MX-5 to date

When Mazda pulled the sheets on the MX-5 RF back in March, I’m pretty sure the U.S. Geological Survey picked up a few tremors caused by worldwide jaw dropping. Adding an absolutely gorgeous retractable fastback roof to the already supremely excellent fourth-gen ND MX-5 was an inspired move on Mazda’s part, as evidenced by the fact all 1,000 examples of the Launch Edition were scooped up just a week after going on sale. Now, with SEMA just around the corner, the zoom-zoom brand is giving us a peek at a new concept based on the 2017 MX-5 RF, and it looks to take the new styling even further with a fresh paint job, new wheels, and upgraded suspension. Say hello to the Kuro.

While the Kuro is certainly one of the milder creations slated to appear on the Vegas show floor this November, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser. The name is a reference to the car’s color, with the Japanese word Kuro translating into English as “black” or “dark.” Mazda says it means charcoal, so I guess I’ll default to that.

The Kuro joins the MX-5 Speedster concept as part of Mazda’s SEMA lineup this year, with the latter vehicle bearing a stripped-down curb weight and motorsport-inspired approach. By contrast, the Kuro seems more focused on achieving a certain aesthetic, although it should be noted the fastback still gets a little extra performance under the skin.

Both concepts come from the brains over at Mazda Design Americas, and were designed and built in Irvine, California. Look for the Mazda concepts to make their formal public debut at the 2016 SEMA Show on November 1st, but for now, read on for a little more info on the Kuro.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mazda MX-5 RF Kuro.


Let’s get right down to it – the color. Mazda only gave us a single teaser shot of the Kuro’s flank, but it’s clearly quite the looker. The hue takes the same name as the concept, and it uses a semi-metallic finish complemented by dark, tinted windows. The side-view mirrors are offset in a glossy black finish, while the headlight housings appear to retain their black interior.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Kuro Exterior
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Here’s the thing – the MX-5 has always been a little too “cute” for its own good. The Kuro looks like it breaks free of that association.

The triangular fender marker gets the same treatment as the body panels, while the body sits low over new Rays wheels. The upgraded ten-spoke rollers boast forged construction, and measure in at 17 inches in diameter and 7.5 inches in width. These figures are slightly larger than those attached to the stock MX-5 wheels, which are either 16 by 6.5 inches, or 17 by 7 inches.

The rest of the car looks unaltered, including the handsome fender arches, angular front end, tight rear end, and well-proportioned roofline.

Here’s the thing – the MX-5 has always been a little too “cute” for its own good. Folks that know recognize the car as an absolute monster on the right road – throw it a few tight curves, and suddenly, extreme output and rolling pin rubber don’t really matter all that much. But for those folks who don’t analyze power-to-weight ratios and don’t really enjoy exploring slip angles, the MX-5 is a tiny, underpowered two-door for librarians. Aesthetically speaking, that is.

The Kuro looks like it breaks free of that association. The semi-metallic charcoal-colored paint gives it a very serious attitude, and when you pair that with the restyled ND fascia and lust-worthy fastback roof, you get a whole new animal. And that’s impressive, because when you break it down, it’s awfully close to the compact sports car that came before.


2016 Mazda MX-5 High Resolution Interior
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Note: Standard Mazda MX-5 interior shown here.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what the Kuro looks like inside, and it’s entirely possible Mazda left the cabin completely untouched. However, I hope there are at least a few unique touches to be had.

The stock MX-5 offers a very solid starting point, with a driver-focused layout that has everything you need to enjoy a stint behind the steering wheel. But if Mazda were to continue the theme started by the exterior, I’d like to see additions like piano black trim, and maybe even some upgraded bucket seats trimmed in black Alcantara. The red contrast stitching should also get tossed in favor of something black. Carbon fiber trim might be appropriate as well, not to mention new carpeting with a greyish hue. But in my opinion, one of the most critical upgrades would be a matte-black inlay to replace the polished aluminum around the shifter, the three-spoke steering wheel, and gauge surrounds.

Mazda could even make a package out of it, calling it something like the “Stealth Upgrade.” All in all, it could definitely change the car’s associations with cuteness.


Mazda made no mention of altering the MX-5’s engine or drivetrain, and since this thing appears to focus mostly on appearances, my guess is it’s all completely stock under the hood.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Drivetrain
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The Kuro should mount a SkyActiv-G inline four-cylinder engine in the front/mid-ship position.

That means the Kuro should mount a SkyActiv-G inline four-cylinder engine in the front/mid-ship position. Displacement for the powerplant is rated at an even 2.0-liters, while output peaks at 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Motivation is sent to the rear axle by way of a six-speed transmission, available in either automatic or manual trim, although my guess is the Kuro gets three pedals. A run to 60 mph takes less than six seconds, and top speed is pegged at 130 mph.

I know I’m not alone in wishing for a little extra grunt in this department, and I think it would be entirely appropriate for a SEMA-bound MX-5 concept to get at least 200 ponies. That said, I understand Mazda’s reluctance. If the Kuro came packing additional power, then everyone would start asking questions like “is Mazda making a new high-spec MX-5?,” which would lead to the inevitable disappointment when no such model appeared. Maybe we could call it “GT86 Syndrome”…

Chassis And Handling

While extra output is unlikely, the Kuro concept does get a little extra performance in the form of an upgraded suspension. Mazda installed components from the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup Presented by BF Goodrich race series, which means this thing has even greater potential to cheat physics in the corners. Included in the spec are race-ready springs and adjustable dampers.

Complementing the new hard bits is a fresh set of rubber from BF Goodrich, which wraps the wider Rays wheels with its Rival G-Force compound. These tires are street-legal, but cut corners in terms of comfort and wet-weather performance for huge grip in the dry. It’s the right choice for a weekend warrior type, which gives us a little extra insight into the philosophy behind the Kuro build.


The MX-5 RF will go on sale early next year, and the Kuro is an excellent preview of what buyers can do modification-wise when they get their hands on this sleek little fastback. The teaser image that Mazda provided is actually pretty informative, but I’m eager to see this thing on display so I can get a long look at it from every angle and really soak in the new color and wheels.

Even more performance potential would have been nice (beyond the tires and suspension, I mean), but I see what Mazda’s doing. If speed is what you’re after, then check out the other SEMA-bound MX-5 concept, a.k.a. the MX-5 Speedster. That thing is like a roofless rocket sled, and it’s very cool in its own right, but it doesn’t have the same panache as the Kuro.

  • Leave it
    • Engine is (probably) untouched
    • What about the interior?
    • Kuro should be a paint option available straight from the factory
Jonathan Lopez
Jonathan Lopez
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Press Release

Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) is no stranger to the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, providing its designers the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild to create some truly stunning dream cars. This year proves no different with its two concepts: the lighter, more ruthlessly efficient MX-5 Miata Speedster Evolution and the stealth-like MX-5 RF Kuro, based on the 2017 MX-5 RF retractable fastback that will be going on sale early next year in the U.S.

MX-5 Speedster debuted at the 2015 SEMA Show as an ode to the lightweight, frills-free, pure driving experience of 1950s sports cars. Weighing just 2,080 lbs., MX-5 Speedster’s 150-lb. weight loss—an 11-percent reduction versus a stock MX-5 soft top—propelled its performance and elevated the open-air experience for which the roadster is known.

Following last year’s SEMA Show, MX-5 Speedster spent the summer at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K., where it ran the 1.16-mile hill climb. MX-5 Speedster then returned to Mazda Design Americas, where the Irvine, California-based team that created it experimented to see just how much lighter they could make their project. Led by Design Manager Ken Saward, the team extracted what remained underneath its dashboard and replaced its gauges with a digital display. They swapped its Brembo front brakes with the lighter rotors and calipers from the MX-5 Sport and Grand Touring models to further the weight reduction. Its 25.1-lbs. stock battery was replaced with a Braille GreenLite G20 Lithium battery that weighs just 4.5 lbs.

Ultimately, the design team shaved an additional 100 lbs. from the MX-5 Speedster—a total of 350 lbs., or 15 percent from the original MX-5 soft top’s starting weight. Now, it weighs a scant 1,980 lbs.

Painted White Ether, MX-5 Evolution further hones Mazda’s performance heritage, complete with an adjustable suspension from the MX-5 Global Cup racecar and BFGoodrich g-Force Rival R1 grooved racing slick tires, sized 225/45R17—the same model of tire used as the race cars competing in the Battery Tender Mazda Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.

“With MX-5 Speedster Evolution, our goal was to further deliver the essence of what MX-5 has represented for the past 27 years—lightweight engineering and pure driving joy,” said Saward, who also owns and races a Spec Miata. “In the future, we might see if there is anywhere else we could take out weight.

Joining MX-5 Speedster Evolution on the Mazda stand is a new concept based on the 2017 MX-5 RF that will be going on sale early next year. Called MX-5 RF Kuro, it is a car that also adopts much of the MX-5 Global Cup technology but in a much more street-focused package. MX-5 RF Kuro also shares its adjustable suspension with the MX-5 Global Cup racecar as well as its Brembo dual-piston front brake calipers. It is painted Satin Black Metallic, a semi-matte black metallic color.

“We wanted to give MX-5 RF Kuro a stealth look to complement its sleek profile, providing subtlety and purpose,” said Saward. “As we move our brand in a direction we call ‘Mazda Premium,’ we want to embrace our longstanding motorsports heritage and reach forward with breathtaking designs like the MX-5 RF.”

Both vehicles were built using parts that Mazda autocross and racecar drivers can purchase via for their MX-5s.

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