28 October 2003

Mazda’s third MX-5 will be based more heavily on the Tokyo concept than was previously thought, bosses confirmed at the show. The next-generation roadster is pencilled in for launch at the next Japanese show in 2005.

The Ibuki ‘near future concept’ is overlayed with cues from the first model. ‘The Ibuki is 50 per cent of the production car,’ admitted Takao Kijima, the engineer leading the programme for the new MX-5. ‘It has the same proportions, but the styling is more flowing. It has muscles, but it is not macho.’Kijima said the next MX-5 would share the Ibuki’s 2330mm wheelbase – up 65mm on the current car to improve interior room – and is almost exactly the same length as the current model.

Engineers hope to peg the weight at less than 1000kg, but say they are looking at two different roof concepts: a simple roadster with a manually folding roof and a second, heavier model with a folding SLK-style metal roof.

‘The MX-5 should be a light, affordable roadster,’ said Stephen Odell, Mazda’s director of sales and marketing. ‘We haven’t lost sight of that.’

Mazda is borrowing the basic underpinnings from the RX-8, although – despite earlier reports – no rotary engines are planned. A choice of 1.6- and 1.8-litre four-cylinder engines will be offered in Europe, plus a 200bhp turbo version for Japan.

The engines are mounted 400mm further back than in today’s car, placing them in a front-mid position to ensure an ideal 50/50 weight distribution.

Incredibly, Mazda will sell around 9000 MX-5s in the UK, acheiving the little roadster’s best-ever performance, despite being in its 14th year of production.

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