The first Mazda MX-5 was introduced to the world 25 years ago and, having sold nearly a million units, creating the new fourth-generation model for the next 25 years was always likely to be a challenge.
Mazda describes this challenge quite succinctly with the phrase “innovate in order to preserve.”
Nobuhiro Yamamoto, Mazda MX-5 Programme Manager, speaking at the global unveiling of the new model, talked about the passion shared by MX-5 fans around the world, but also of his duty to ensure the new MX-5 continues to be – in his words – “a source of happiness.”
It’s clear Nobuhiro and his team have expended considerable effort in recapturing the spirit of the original MX-5, and nowhere is this more apparent than in this one statistic: the new MX-5 is more than 100kg lighter than its predecessor.
Some of this weight reduction arrives as the result of a greater use of aluminium, particularly in body panels such as the bonnet, boot lid, front wings and bumper support structures, while the weight of the soft-top has also been reduced.
It’s also slightly smaller than the out-going model – 105mm shorter and 20mm lower – although it is marginally wider by 10mm. The wheelbase is also slightly shorter, at 2,315mm versus 2,330mm of the old car.
Optimising the new MX-5’s agile handling, the engine has been moved closer to the vehicle’s centre, while a new light-weight double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension set-up achieves not just weight savings but also handling improvements. Weight distribution is now an ideal 50:50 front-to-rear.
The cabin has been designed to be deliberately ‘snug’, complete with the trademark high transmission tunnel and stubby short-throw gear-lever, while the soft-top retains its simplicity in that it can be easily raised or lowered from the driver’s seat. Various wind control measures have been added to make it a pleasure to drive with the top down, including the use of smaller quarter windows, and even the addition of speakers in the headrests.
Mazda’s well-regarded MZD Connect navigation and connectivity system also makes an appearance, bringing the new MX-5’s interior in to line with the newest models in Mazda’s range such as the Mazda 3.
All of this is wrapped in a new body shape that follows Mazda’s ‘Kodo’ design language, with Nobuhiro’s team aiming to create a shape that was just as appealing with the top up as it is top down.
To achieve this, the cabin has been moved towards the rear slightly, while the seat’s hip-points have been lowered.
The shape emphasises the new, wider stance, while continuity is provided by a line that runs from just above the headlights, along the shoulders, and finishes at the rear lights. A cheeky antenna pokes out from the rear haunches.
Mazda hasn’t revealed details of the SkyActiv engine that will power the new MX-5, but it seems likely it will use modified versions of the company’s existing 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre powerplants.
The new Mazda MX-5 will go on sale in Europe later in 2015.