As fuel prices rise and resources dwindle how do Mazda see the way ahead for drivers who still enjoy the Zoom-Zoom feeling? We ask Seita Kanai, Head of Mazda research and development.
The next-generation MX5 will combine a small-capacity turbocharged four with lightweight engineering to return the two-seater to its original agile sports car concept, writes Richard Bremner in Autocar. Mazda’s engineers have been tasked with cutting 275kg from the 1075kg ‘empty’ kerb weight of today’s MX5 to hit an ambitious target of 800kg. This would be a significant step forward for a volume-production sports car. In its leanest form, the MX5 weighed just 955kg at its 1989 debut, before crash-testing added weight through heavy body structures, side-impact bars and airbags, and extensive, luxury specifications became standard.
Weight-saving will be fought on many fronts, starting with lightening as many mechanical components as possible, adopting lightweight materials and deleting features to create a more minimalist spec. This downsizing of components will then lead to a ‘virtuous circle’ in which a lighter car allows a lighter transmission, smaller brakes, less hefty suspension and so on.
In place of today’s 1.8 and 2.0-litre engines, the next MX5 will use a small direct-injection four-cylinder turbocharged engine of around 1.5 litres. It will feature variable cam phasing, lighter, low-friction reciprocating parts, and possibly a new exhaust manifold design that achieves more effective exhaust gas evacuation. Many of these developments are part of Mazda’s SkyActiv engineering campaign, which aims to improve the efficiency of every aspect of its cars.
Expect a lighter, reduced-friction transmission as Mazda tries to make the manual shift action as mechanically precise and satisfying as the original. A highly efficient paddle-shift torque-converter auto with a lock-up clutch is likely as well.
The new MX5 will be more compact than today’s design, particularly narrower in width, which will also reduce the frontal area. The styling will almost certainly be an evolution of the previous three generations of the car. The body structure will probably remain all steel for cost reasons, but there will be a sizeable content of high-strength panels, and some ingenious structural solutions, such as a twin-backbone frame, to solve the problem of open-top rigidity. Mazda is believed to have taken out patents on some of these innovations.
There is much debate about the features it might be possible to leave out. For example, the dashboard’s glovebox may disappear in favour of other storage compartments, the owner’s manual will probably be supplied on a USB stick and lightweight neodymium-magnet stereo speakers will replace heavy, ceramic-magnet-based conventional units. What is not yet clear is whether Mazda will dare to remove the option of a metal folding roof on the MX5 coupé, which makes an MX5 easier to own but adds 80kg.
French Autoblog artist’s MX5 2015 impression
Sales of convertibles are down in the USA and there is a real focus in the world car market on fuel efficient, economical and practical vehicles. For the next generation MX5 to succeed Mazda must address the problems created by rising fuel costs, the economic downturn and global warming. Lets hope Mazda can get it right!
You can read more about the decline of the soft-top market in America, by clicking on the logo: