The next-generation Mazda MX-5 is likely to be powered by a turbocharged version of the 1.3-litre, four cylinder SkyActiv petrol engine when it goes on sale in 2014.
In place of today’s normally aspirated 1.8 and 2.0-litre engines, the next Mazda MX-5 will use the smaller direct-injection turbo unit. It will feature variable cam phasing, lighter, low-friction reciprocating parts, and possibly a new exhaust manifold design that achieves more effective exhaust gas evacuation.
Expect a lighter, reduced-friction transmission as Mazda tries to make the manual shift action as mechanically precise and satisfyingly short-throw as the original’s. A highly efficient paddle-shift torque-converter auto, with a lock-up clutch, is likely as well.
The next MX-5 will be built on a new rear-wheel drive SkyActiv platform, which will be known as the S-platform.
Lightweight engineering will be crucial as Mazda attempts to return the two-seater to its original agile sports car concept. According to a senior insider, Mazda’s engineers have been tasked with cutting 275kg from the 1075kg ‘empty’ kerb weight (the weight without a driver) of today’s MX-5 to hit an ambitious target of 800kg.
This would be a significant step forward for a volume-production sports car. In its leanest form, the MX-5 weighed just 955kg at its 1989 debut. That was an era before comparative crash-testing added weight through heavy body structures, side-impact bars and airbags, and extensive, luxury specs became standard.
Weight-saving will be fought on many fronts, starting with lightening as many mechanical components as possible, adopting lightweight materials and deleting features to create a more minimalist spec. This downsizing of components will then lead to a ‘virtuous circle’ in which a lighter car allows a lighter transmission, smaller brakes, less hefty suspension and so on.
The new MX-5 will be more compact than today’s design, particularly narrower in width, which will also reduce the frontal area. And the styling will almost certainly be an evolution of the previous three generations of the MX-5. The design language will be the new Kodo theme first seen on the Shinari concept at Paris last year and seen on the Takeri concept shown at this week’s Tokyo motor show.