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New York show: New Mazda MX-5 revealed, in part

The price is right: According to Mazda, stripping back the price of the next-generation MX-5 will be a priority for the car-maker.

Bare Mazda MX-5 chassis shows enhancements aimed at sharpening handling

Mazda logo16 Apr 2014

By BARRY PARK

UPDATEDTHE architecture of Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 convertible has gone on show for the first time, revealing little of how the car will look, but plenty about how it should drive.

The Japanese car-maker will this week reveal a rolling chassis for the fourth generation of the two-seat roadster at the New York Auto Show, showing a lightweight design with an even weight distribution between the front and rear wheels, made possible by an engine that sits almost in behind the front axle.

“The principals of keeping the vehicle lightweight, 50:50 front-rear weight distribution and low yaw inertia moment stay the same, but there is plenty that Mazda is planning to change,” the car-maker claims.

The new MX-5 will draw heavily on Mazda’s SkyActiv technology, including weight-saving measures that should cut more than 100kg from the sportscar compared with the current generation, to tip the scales at less than 1000kg.

Mazda showed a lightweight speedster version of the current-generation MX-5 at the Frankfurt motor show in 2009 for the car’s 20th anniversary.

Called the MX-5 Superlight, it tipped the scales at just 995kg and featured a 93kW/197Nm 1.8-litre engine under its carbon fibre and aluminium bonnet.

However, it did not include a windshield or a roof, and never made the leap into production.

The chassis shows that the engine in the next-generation MX-5, due on sale in Australia some time in 2015, sits almost amidships and much lower than the previous generation’s position.

As a result, Mazda claims the new MX-5’s centre of gravity will be the lowest yet.

Spy images of the new MX-5 out testing have revealed the car wearing a long bonnet with a subtle power bulge, with the front wheels set well back from the front of the car.

Like the previous generation, though, the rear wheels are pushed to the outer edges of the car.

Interestingly, the car has not yet been sighted wearing a steel folding roof, suggesting the car-maker has stuck with the rag-top version alone in the interests of saving weight.

The MX-5’s handling is expected to be enhanced by the Mazda3’s new-generation SkyActiv-G petrol four-cylinder engine with a 2.0-litre displacement and a super-high compression ratio.

Speculation suggests there could also be an entry version powered by a smaller 1.5-litre SkyActiv unit, to be shared with the next Mazda2.

Details are scarce, but it appears the fourth-generation MX-5 will roll on similar double wishbone front end, while down the rear the two-seat roadster will use a multilink suspension similar to the one used on the current car.

Once again, Mazda is using “Jinba Ittai”, the Japanese term to describe the connection between horse and rider, as its meme for the fourth-generation car.

“Although it is still in the development stage, this chassis with its front-midship-engine layout and rear-wheel-drive configuration, shows the direction of the new model,” Mazda said.

The new-generation MX-5 had also allowed Mazda to change the way it thought about the MX-5, the car-maker said.

“Times have changed drastically during the MX-5’s 25-year history. Each successive model of the past three generations has seen slight increases in size and weight in response to social requirements as people’s awareness of safety and the environment increase,” it said.

“But today, demands for safety and environmental performance are exponentially higher.

“However, Mazda firmly believes that even while meeting these demands, the fun of being one with the car – the exhilaration felt by any driver on any kind of road, which to Mazda is the fundamental attribute of the lightweight sports car – must be maintained.

“To do this, Mazda considers it essential to realise a different kind of innovation that goes way beyond mere product refinement,” it said.

“This is clearly summed up by the maxim that indicates the direction of the next model— Innovate in order to preserve.” Mazda said that while technology had progressed, the car-maker had “an unwavering determination to keep the MX-5 faithful to its roots—to offer the driver the unrivalled pleasure of feeling completely at one with the car”.

“To achieve this with the new SkyActiv chassis, engineers are painstakingly researching the optimum position for the driver as one of the development goals ... In this way Mazda is aiming to further evolve its signature Jinba Ittai driving experience and surpass the car’s heritage.”

The design of the new MX-5 is also expected to bring changes, with the look said to get more edgy for the fourth-generation roadster. However, one thing that seems to be confirmed is that it will not wear the same face as the current Mazda3 small car.

Mazda’s platform-sharing arrangement with Italian-US conglomerate Fiat Chrysler is expected to spawn a next-generation two-door spider that will be built alongside the MX-5 in Japan.

However, while it was initially believed the shared platform would spawn a reborn Alfa Romeo-badged barchetta, it is now looking more likely that the roadster will wear an Abarth badge tying it in with Fiat.

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