Mazda’s design boss has told Autocar that the company is planning a radical rethink of the MX-5.

“The next MX-5 needs to be a big step,” Laurens Van den Acker said. “The last one was too conservative and we can’t do another car like that. We need to make it more dramatic and give it some balls.”

However, Van den Acker admitted that nothing would be done to change the MX-5’s core character. The fourth-generation car, due to appear in around 2012, will still be a no-nonsense small rear-drive roadster, albeit probably lighter and more fuel-efficient than the current model.

Another senior Mazda designer told us that while there has been lots of internal debate about the future of the company’s iconic roadster, no final decision has yet been taken on what it will look like. “Last time round [designing the current car] we came up with lots of radical proposals and we may reignite one of those,” said our insider. Another Mazda designer admitted that the intention was for the MX-5 to stop being completely different from the rest of the line-up, hinting that the likes of the Kazamai concept car will influence its design.

In the meantime the current MX-5 will have at least one facelift before it is replaced. Leaked patent documents showed recently that the forthcoming visual makeover is a very minor one. It will make its official debut at the Paris motor show in October.

Chas Hallett