Virtually every automaker has at least one model in their portfolio — past or present — that somehow represents an enduring icon of their brand. Honda and Acura have the magnificent NSX, while Nissan has the early 240Z models. BMW has the M3, Mercedes has the SL, and Ford has the Mustang. Chevrolet’s Corvette is a defining car of the brand, just like how the 900 Turbo was for Saab. Mazda has had a couple of these cars, from the Cosmo to the RX-7, but the most enduring icon from Mazda’s stable is undoubtably the humble MX-5 Miata.
On Thursday, the company pulled the wraps off what will be the fourth generation of the best-selling two seater sports car (an honor for which it actually holds a Guinness World Record), which be be rolled out and into showrooms around the world throughout next year. The Miata — or MX-5 or Roadster, depending where you live — is the recipient of over 200 awards from around the globe, so there’s a lot riding on the latest generation.
Though Mazda says that the new Miata adopt’s the brand’s KODO design language, it’s immediately apparent that it doesn’t really look like anything else in Mazda’s lineup at the time being. It might share some similar lines here and there, but generally speaking, the Miata is a sort of island in the company’s lineup from a design point of view. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but many were expecting the MX-5 to adopt more of the happy-faced fascia design that is seen on the other cars, from the Mazda3 to the CX-9.
The car retains its near-perfect weight distribution, which has long been a point of pride for Mazda’s engineers. It will like be powered by the 2.0 liter SkyActiv four-cylinder mill, but the really big story is that Mazda was apparently able to shave off about 100 kilograms — about 220 pounds. The Miata was already a lightweight car, but if Mazda’s word is correct, we’re looking at a rough curb weight of just 2,200 pounds for the thing — and that is stunning.
Over the years, tech and added safety features have made weight savings more difficult. But the new generation promises to be among the most lightweight yet, despite the increases in global crash regulations that have generally forced automakers to gain pounds instead of shed them. On that point, Autoblog noted at the live reveal that “the new car looks incredibly compact yet sinuous, with tightly snubbed overhangs what designer Derek Jenkins called an “impossibly low” hoodline — impressive in this day and age of pedestrian crash regulations.”
The rounded, amicable features of the outgoing generation have been instead substituted for a more aggressive look, one more reminiscent of the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins. Overall, the design is super clean — no extraneous flaring, creases, scoops, dents, spoilers, intakes, or other performance mainstays that generally embellish aggressive, performance-oriented cars.
Inside, the Miata looks very consistent with Mazda’s other current generation vehicles. There’s a center-mounted tachometer, a “stubby” gearshift lever, and the athletic-looking steering wheel illustrate that the cabin is performance-driving focused. Despite its smaller size, Mazda insists that the passenger space remains about the same.
Exact word on what kind of power the new Miata will have is still unavailable, as is price. Chances are likely, though, that it will dance around the 200 ballpark, and base prices will probably start comfortably under $30,000. Autoblog says natural aspiration is expected, though a turbo is possible. The Paris Motor Show in October, it added, could shed more light on the powertrain.
“The Miata may not make much of a contribution to Mazda’s bottom line – it accounts for roughly one percent of the company’s global sales, but make no mistake, it’s among the most important cars the company produces,” Chris Paukert wrote for the site. “It is its spiritual center of gravity, its moral center.”
The stage is set for the 2016 Miata to become the most capable, quickest, and most importantly fun Miata to ever hit the road. After decades of benchmark-setting performance, the new car has a lot to live up to, but as long as the weight stays down, the power stays up, and the balance — the true asset of the Miata — stays consistent, than Mazda shouldn’t have any issues.