Mazda has unveiled its fourth generation of the Miata MX5 sports car, beloved by many as affordable, basic and fun. Showroom date set for mid-2015.
That the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata marks only the fourth generation of the model in 25 years shows just how precisely Mazda’s engineers and designers nailed the roadster’s original formula. It’s also a testament to the Miata’s broad, enduring appeal as a coastal highway cruiser, cute commuter or affordable track day special.
Mazda has thus far only unwrapped the next-generation Miata’s shell and chassis, revealing an engine closer to the car’s center, and the center itself lower to the ground than any Miata before it. Along with a revised rear suspension design, aluminum front suspension components for reduced weight (Mazda has shed more than 220 pounds from the current model), a stiffer chassis and electric power steering, the new Miata promises a return to the sharp handling that has dulled as the car has grown and aged. Mazda has also trimmed 3 inches in overall length and half an inch in width.
Outside, the Miata loses some of its cuteness for a more curved, muscular tone similar to the Mazda 3 or CX-5, two recent models infused with Mazda’s new design philosophy.
The current 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine likely makes way for the new-generation Skyactiv version, like that found in the Mazda 3. But that engine makes just 155 horsepower in the Mazda 3, well short of the current Miata’s output of 167 hp. An all-new chassis could potentially accommodate Mazda’s larger four-cylinder, a 2.5-liter model rated at 184 hp, although that may defeat the purpose of a smaller, lighter Miata. Depending on the new Miata’s weight loss, there’s even potential for a smaller, high-revving four-cylinder. A six-speed manual transmission will remain standard (an automatic is optional) because this is, after all, a Miata.
Look for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata to debut next spring, with sales likely to begin by summer. With the new technology used in the next-gen Miata, expect the starting price to eclipse the current base model’s sub-$25,000 sticker. Mazda will need to stay competitive, however, to preserve one of the Miata’s fundamental charms: affordability.