MX-5 goes back to basics

words - Peter Lyon
All-new MX-5 sticks to familiar formula say insiders

Just days after the celebration of Mazda MX-5’s 25th anniversary, the first definitive information on the all-new fourth generation model has hit the desk. And, say insiders, it’s back to basics for the next generation of the world’s best selling roadster.

Born in 1989, a memorable year for Japan that also saw the debut of the Nissan Skyline GT-R, the Subaru Legacy and Nissan 300ZX (as well as the Lexus and Infiniti brands), the MX-5 has registered just under one million sales. Thus it’s not surprising that the new roadster’s design harks back to the original MX-5 and what you see in our artist’s impression here is over 85 per cent complete, says our source.

“With the new roadster, you can expect to see a new interpretation of Mazda’s ‘Kodo’ design language,” our Mazda insider stated.

“The oval-shaped grille is a major departure from current Mazda styling and will hint back to the original car. And, of course, the MX-5 will feature all of the company’s new Skyactiv technologies that we’ve seen in the CX-5, Mazda6 and Mazda3,” the source stated.

While it will employ a totally new look, one thing that Mazda designers were adamant about was that it must look like a Roadster. It must retain the 25-year heritage and design nuance.

“The finished design, which was signed off late last year, is definitely a design that current owners will want to update to. And new owners will continue to flock to,” says our source.

Interesting, our insider revealed that the Ibuki concept car shown at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show was actually an early design study for the next generation MX-5. But that project was shelved around 2005 and then rekindled in 2008.

That’s why the first design concepts of the new roadster resemble the Ibuki.

As is already widely known in motoring circles, the new ND version will tip the scales at around 950kg, almost replicating the curb weight of the original 1989 model.

A significant design redirection became necessary in early 2012 when Mazda signed a deal with Alfa Romeo to co-develop a new sports car. Alfa will build its new signature roadster based on the MX-5’s platform and underpinnings.

Our source tells us that it was the Alfa Romeo side that suggested the engine bay be lengthened marginally to more comfortably house the two different engine architectures Mazda and Alfa will employ.

The Mazda will be powered by a naturally aspirated Skyactiv 1.5-litre four engine from the current Mazda3 range, but tweaked to generate more power and torque at higher rpms.

It will be married to a choice of either six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. In contrast, the as yet unnamed Alfa roadster is expected to incorporate an in-house developed turbocharged 1.4-liter with dual-clutch transmission.

“Lengthening the engine bay appears to have been a blessing in disguise,” says our insider.

Mazda, in its uncompromising efforts to reduce curb weight and get back to basics, had designed the engine bulkhead to sit right on top of the front axle. But by stretching the engine bay by a “small margin,” Mazda and Alfa were able to give more room for the bulkhead and beef up body rigidity at the same time, our insider explained.

A prototype has already been spotted circling the Nurburgring wearing a modified current model NC body. Hardcore Mazda fans would have noticed that it had a longer nose and wheelbase, shorter rear overhangs and its windscreen laid back on a lower angle.

The MX-5 and Alfa cars will both be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima factory but only 40 per cent of the parts used will be shared. Those components include the platform with suspension assemblies, the floor and the windscreen. This translates to all of the body panels, interiors and powertrains being unique.

The new MX-5 has been a long time coming, but it is finally slated to land in showrooms by the middle of 2015.

Given that the US is the MX-5’s biggest market, it seems only fitting that the car should be unveiled there.

Our source says, “Don’t worry. Top on the list of a suitable location to reveal the all-new car is the Chicago Auto Show in February [2015].

“And don’t expect any significant price hiked either,” they promise.

Image: Holiday Auto magazine

Published : Friday, 14 February 2014
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