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Future models - Mazda - MX-5

New Mazda MX-5 “looks right”

Low and lean: Mazda's new MX-5 is low at the front but wide in its stance to emphasise its performance credentials.

Father of the original 1989 MX-5 praises Mazda's 21st century effort as spot on

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Mazda logo7 Sep 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

THE man credited with triggering the Mazda MX-5 phenomenon in the 1980s says he is thrilled with the new lines of the latest, fourth-generation model unveiled in simultaneous events in the United States, Japan and Spain this week.

Bob Hall, an American journalist who became a product planner with Mazda at its California design operation where his idea for a traditional “bugs in the teeth” rear-drive sports car found fertile ground, was front and centre at the American unveiling on the latest effort in Monterey yesterday, declaring the Kodo-inspired MX-5 “what a sportscar should look like in the 21st century”.

“It looks right,” he said.

The new MX-5 – expected to go on sale around the world in mid 2015, including Australia – is leaner and more lithe than any model since the original that was launched to the world in 1989.

In the US, that original model was dubbed Miata, a title quietly dropped for the latest generation in favour of the international MX-5 badge.

And although the first iteration – called NA – was largely styled at Mazda's Californian design studio, Mazda insists the new ND version is a true international team effort, with studios in the US, Japan and Europe all having a hand in the final design.

Japanese designers played a lead roll in the exterior styling, while the interior was largely the product of an American designer.

So far, Mazda has held back crucial technical details of the new model, including powertrains and performance figures, but that shoe is expected to drop at the upcoming Paris motor show in a few weeks.

Mr Hall, who is back living in the US after stints in Australia with Wheels magazine and with Proton in Malaysia, said the new MX-5 was the right balance of traditional MX-5 values and modern design in Mazda's current Kodo design language.

He said the design was neither Japanese nor American, “just a friggin good-looking car”.

In the flesh, the new model sits squat on the deck, wider, lower and shorter than previous generations.

Mazda North America's design director Derek Jenkins said key features of the design were the low hood – emphasising the planted look – and bulging rear mudguards that reinforced the rear-wheel drive layout.

All-LED headlights and tail-lights not only reinforce this streamlined look but help to cut vital grams from the kerb weight in Mazda's efforts to bring the MX-5 down close to 1000kg – at least 100kg lighter than the current third generation.

The windscreen frame will be painted black on all MX-5 models, contributing to the lower look.

Nods to the original model include the stubby rear-mounted radio antenna, rather straight lower side body sculpting and tail-lights inspired by the originals.

Mr Jenkins said the design team had wanted to retain the MX-5 DNA while making “profound” changes – the most of any generation – to bring the roadster up to date.

“For us, this is slightly bigger than a really big deal,” he said when unveiling the new design at a disused ex-US Army helicopter hangar outside Monterey where 1980s British band Duran Duran was also on the bill.

Mr Jenkins said feedback from MX-5 owners indicated they wanted a more upmarket interior, and so the main attention had been on quality of design and feel of cabin finishes and features while retaining the simplicity of previous generations.

A free-standing touch-screen sits prominently on the middle of the dash, with large circular dials in front of the driver. The upholstery of the show cars was in charcoal grey.

At least two specification levels will offered, as Mazda appeals to young buyers and the young at heart.

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