The new Mazda MX-5 will have “very clean and simple” styling to be what a company veteran calls “our best-looking car ever”.
On sale in 2015, the new MX-5 is tipped to appear early that year at February’s Chicago show, where the original MX-5 was launched in 1989.
The engineering and styling details of the eagerly awaited two-seater are understood to centre on new, more muscular proportions in which the front axle is pushed forward to give a long-bonnet look to emphasise the rear-drive powertrain.
“It is such a good-looking car — recognisable as an MX-5, but with very clean styling,” said an insider.
Design chief Ikuo Maeda and his team have developed a new and unique styling theme for both the MX-5 and its platform twin, the RX-7 coupé. The look is different from that used on Mazda’s hatches and saloons.
During an interview at the Tokyo show last November, Maeda told Autocar that the MX-5 would have its own interpretation of the firm’s ‘Kodo’ design language.
Maeda also emphasised that the design will not be retro, a reference interpreted to mean distancing the new car from the soft and rounded styling of the original 1989 MX-5.
In practice, the next-gen MX-5 is understood to feature simple body surfaces without the pronounced wheel arch bulges and intersecting styling lines that give the 3 and 6 their unique character.
A significant detail will be a simple face built around a smooth front nosecone and lower air intake — the basic stylistic building blocks that have characterised all three MX-5 models since 1989.
That is likely to mean a lower air intake with a little more angular shaping, rather than the ovoid look of past models.The MX-5 definitely won’t feature the brash, five-point grille of the 3 and 6.
An important new feature of the MX-5 will be a relatively long wheelbase inside dimensions that grow slightly and closer to an overall length of four metres. Today’s model is 3975mm long.
Prototypes of the new MX-5 snapped recently at the Nürburgring can now be seen to show off this extended dimension. Multiple layers of disguise between the scuttle and front axle are intended to disguise it.
The longer bonnet is partly necessary to accommodate Mazda’s new SkyActiv petrol engines, which employ a 4-2-1 exhaust manifold that takes up a relatively long space to encourage free-flowing air out of the combustion chambers to improve efficiency.
The same 4-2-1 exhaust manifold has resulted in the ‘long bonnet’ dimensions of the new 3, whose bulkhead and cabin are pushed back by 100mm compared with rivals.
A new generation of stratified-charge HCCI versions of this engine — tipped to be on sale during the new MX-5’s life cycle — might need an even longer exhaust manifold.
The engines will be naturally aspirated versions of the SkyActiv petrol engine, most likely in 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre capacities, but some markets might take only a single variant.
Early reports suggested that the MX-5 would feature a turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, but Mazda has since decided to concentrate on naturally aspirated engines.
Engineers are confident that Mazda can hit Europe’s fleet average figure of 95g/km of CO2 by 2021 without using forced induction.
The new MX-5 is likely to be launched with much-improved fuel economy figures as Mazda targets efficiency gains of 30 per cent by 2015.
Power outputs for the MX-5 have yet to be confirmed, but expect typically conservative horsepower figures matched to a low kerb weight to deliver a rewarding driving experience.
A kerb weight of just over 1100kg will make the MX-5 lighter than its rivals and Mazda has proven adept at making its recent models the lightest in their class.
Insiders are pulling back from an earlier commitment to hit 1000kg. “That’s a very, very difficult figure to achieve in practice,” said one insider.
Given the competitive price of the MX-5, it is engineered around conventional steel construction, although detailed attention to individual componentry is contributing to weight reduction.
Just like today’s MX-5, the new model is being engineered with two roof mechanisms: a folding metal hard-top and conventional soft-top.
The hard-top will be focused on the European and Japanese markets, the multi-layer canvas top on the US market.
High demand in the UK — Europe’s biggest market for the MX-5 — for the folding hard-top has largely been responsible for keeping the two different roofs in production.
The second generation of the folding hard-top is said to be lighter and packaged more efficiently, delivering slightly improved boot volume.