• Mar 24th 2009 at 4:27PM
  • 43
Click above for a high-res gallery of 20 years of the Mazda Miata/MX-5

Low weight and greater efficiency might not be the sexiest of selling points for a sports car unless you're a devotee of Lotus founder Colin Chapman's "add lightness" philosophy. Thankfully for those less-is-more enthusiasts, however, Mazda has steadily adhered to that formula with its MX-5 Miata – and now, word from the crew at GoAuto is that company engineers are working even harder to adhere to that design philosophy, with thoughts of smaller, force-fed engines and lighter curb weights dominating discussions for the next iteration of the iconic roadster.

There have long been rumors of a rotary-powered MX-5, but that's probably not in the cards. A modern take on the RX-7 is supposedly being worked up to take a new version of Felix Wankel's whirling dervish of an engine zipping into the future, with the MX-5 getting a newly developed line of four cylinders with direct injection and forced induction (finally!). A heavy-breathing Miata, packing the muscle of a MazdaSpeed3, for instance, might move the neo-MGB into a new realm at the top of its range.

Three words that tend to generate a half-frown on enthusiasts faces are being thrown about in the same sentence as the new Miata: "Electric power steering." We can see the push for the greater energy efficiency that EPS offers, but hopefully Mazda can make the Miata's helm joyously alive instead of Toyota Corolla-style numbness, all shot up with Novocaine (as most such systems tend to be).

Chassis details are also in the realm of conjecture at this point, but with words like "lighter" being shoved at us, we expect some significant re-engineering going on under the skin. That skin, by the way, will likely be more expressive than the rather safe MX-5 we have now, with Mazda's design chief Laurens van den Acker on record as saying the plan is for the car to "be more dramatic and give it some balls."

[Source: GoAuto]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dan Roth is far and away the best writer on AB.

      I always enjoy his articles.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd love to see this the case. The Miata has not gotten better as it packed on the pounds and ridiculous wheel arches just to keep up with trends.

      Still, making this car lighter will require going against trends and putting smaller wheels on it (among other things), and I don't really believe Mazda is going to do that.
        • 6 Years Ago
        They're still under Ford and ford is actually making cars lighter than previous models, I think mazda could manage the same, esp if they added more power and used that to offset the costs of ligther bits (by raising msrp)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hmm...a Miata with balls. Isn't that a Lotus Elise?
        • 6 Years Ago
        A more accurate formula would be:

        Miata - steel + alUminium (pronounced like a Brit) + balls - sound deadening + $20,000 = Elise
      • 6 Years Ago
      "be more dramatic and give it some balls"

      Dramaballs, I like it!
      • 6 Years Ago
      This sounds delightful. Mazda hasn't let me down with a Miata yet.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hopefully they sharpen it up some. I'm all for less weight and the same power. Or more. But they need to not try to make it feel softer. The NC is so rolly that it lost much of the joy of the older models.

      Thank goodness they're not putting the rotary in it.

      Why power steering? On the NA/NB models it wasn't uncommon to drain the system, yank the pump and convert the (closer ratio) power steering gearbox to a non-powered box. If they make the car lighter it'll need the power steering less than it did before (although I guess there technically isn't a less than "doesn't need at all.")

      Hopefully they go back to the upper/lower A arm suspension they had with the NA/NB and ditched for the lame trailing setup on the NC.

      Actually, could they maybe just take an NB, put the NC's engine in it and call it good? I'll buy that car.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The problem with that idea is that the NB's look hideous. They look like catfish.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You must be thinking of the wrong car. Perhaps the fourth gen Supra. The NBs look like baby third gen RX-7's.
      • 6 Years Ago
      OK, enough with the fun from the Miata.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Car and Driver was just raving about the electric power steering on the RX8 in the most recent issue.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The MX5 needs to have 2 configurations, hard top (preferably glass roof) and convertible with at least a 220 hp. Having a glass roof configuration offers those who don't want a true convertible that open air feeling while not limiting them to a traditional convertible. In essence, the MX5 should have been a baby RX-7. I believe they can reduce the weight of this model because they did it with the 6 and made it larger than the previous model. This also allows them to push the RX-8 (which needs more power for the price) more upmarket, which it should be since it breaches the 32K mark, after adding additional options. Also, these two vehicles shouldn't be overlapping at any given price point, with other automakers introducing vehicles in the future, they can't afford to cannibalize each other. Mazda needs to realize that the MX5 isn't a luxury car and doesn't even compete with cars in it's price range. Make it slightly wider, with a lower stance, upgraded interior materials, and then maybe I will consider a Grand Touring model starting over 25K.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I dunno...

        A hard top with a bit more structure, but still a removable glass or thermoplastic (like, say corvette's clear top) panel in the roof would not be too bad. And no headliner required, just a stowable sun-shade.

        My biggest problem with my NB Miata is that it cowl-shakes like any convertible will. Otherwise it is a very nice little car. I wouldn't argue with 100 more horsepower. Don't NEED it, but sometimes it is nice.

        Unless it is built for a purpose, like the Mono Posto pictured, a road-going production car is structurally more sound as a coupe than a convertible. Ask about the rigidity of the Cayman, versus the Boxster, and the stability of the suspension as a result.

        I SO wish the JDM NB limited edition coupe were available in North America. That hard-top modification posted here is a very awkward alternative, and unless it has a steel structure welded to the upper corners of the windshield, it probably doesn't help as much as it could.

        I want to like the the NC, but I can't bring myself to really like looking at the outside. The inside is nicer in design, and certainly more comfortable, but they took a page from ford's interior materials order catalog, and the materials are not as nice, very pebble-grain, hard, and cold. No thanks. I really like the up-side-up top fold, with no tonneau cover.

        But I can get a nicer, more comfortable interior, with somewhat nicer materials, with the top-side-up top fold, and more stock power, by buying a 986 Boxster S, and have the benefit of a mid-engined chassis, and a smoother, more powerful boxer-6, and a used one is probably about the same price as a brand new loaded Miata. The Porsche will always be a Porsche, and will always have been engineered as a Porsche, even when it becomes a classic car. And If I can eventually get a Cayman, all the better.

        If Miata can lose the surprised/smiling bar-of-soap exterior looks, and go back to a classic coke-bottle NA/NB shape, and lose the pebble-grain plastic interior, drop back to 2400-2600lbs max, with ~150hp and ~230+hp turbo Mazdaspeed model, they might have a new shot. If they build a Kabura coupe from it, all the much better.

        When they turn the RX8 into a car that looks like a 6.5/8ths Aston Rapide sport sedan profile for 30-40k, with 5 doors, and bring a powerful 3-door 2-seat RX7 back... Then they'll have their sports car profile back in order, and their marketing will be a whole lot less hollow.

        I really want Mazda to get back in that game. Less weight, more optional power, more attractiveness, preferably all three... You can do it, Mazda.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I have to agree with you BoxerFanatic, they need to rethink their strategy. With their pricing for the current model seriously encroaching on Solstice/Sky, 350Z, Hyundai Genesis, Mustang, & now Camaro territory--they seriously need to prove their worth. A lot of those cars offer performance and power that exceed or are far beyond what the MX-5 or RX-8 can offer. I also have to agree that the could take a page from the Corvette on the roof, the overall approach of the next version is that it needs to stand out in the crowd. I barely see any of these cars on the road in Atlanta, but plenty of the GM twins, so the they need to step up their game.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not to belabor the point, but looking over at Miata.net, several people have weighed their NC with various trims and fuel levels. Between 2400 and 2500 lbs. Pretty good, I would say.
        • 6 Years Ago
        With any options at all, I had heard it was pushing north of 2700lbs, even without the convertible hard top. Published curb weights are usually the bargain model with no options, and perhaps not even fluids in the car. Our 99 NB preferred equipment package (no leather, otherwise full options) I believe weighs somewhere between 2300-2400lbs IIRC, with ~144hp. the 99-2000 NBs were among the lightest, before getting bigger brakes, and the '01+ re-fresh. Mazdaspeeds are among the heaviest, north of 2500lbs, IIRC, with a couple of extra horses. (should have been much more, btw...)

        • 6 Years Ago
        No need to "drop down" to 2400-2600 lbs. The current NC MX-5 is 2500 lbs and also has 166 HP, so it already meets 2 of your requirements. How much did you think it weighed?
      • 6 Years Ago
      "There’s always been a small but nagging question mark over the dynamics of the third-generation Mazda MX-5, which has been spoiled by the artificial feel of its electric power steering..."


      Does the current Miata have electric power steering or not?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Nope; it's still hydraulic. That article caused some puzzling in Miata forums when it was published, but it's flat wrong.

        Having owned an NA and NB Miata, My knee-jerk reaction is to protest any move towards EPS... but then, the RX-8's steering is electric and it has better feel than the NC MX-5's, IMO.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The current miata should, as it shares a platform with my rx-8 which has electric power steering, and it's far from numb. It's all in how you apply it. EPS on the column = numb no matter what, however EPS on the steering rack = possibly good, although you can still mess it up.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Umm.... did you guys forget the Mazda3, Mazda5, and RX-8 all have electric assist steering?
      No one complains about the steering feel on those cars.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Sorry to disappoint you buddy, but majority of us don't have skills even close to F1/LeMans drivers.

        Plus, the whole point of the Miata is to have fun and a communicative steering(see 3-series, BMW). I have no intention of treating it like a GT-race car.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Um...no. Those cars have fully electronic steering - i.e. no power steering fluid or pumps. This comes from an RX-8 owner. No complaints from me or any other RX-8 driver.
        • 6 Years Ago
        No the RX-8 as great feel. And if it did not it would be completely bad because it is ugly guzzles gas like a V8 and has 232hp and not torque.
        • 6 Years Ago
        F1 cars have full electric steering. Most (not all) Le Mans prototypes too. If those drivers can deal with electric steering, I think you can make do also.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Here's the Mazda steering breakdown:

        RX-8, Miata, Tribute: Fully electric
        3, 5: Electro-Hydraulic
        6, CX-7, CX-9: Conventional Hydraulic
        • 6 Years Ago
        There's a difference between an electrically powered hydraulic pump - which the cars you listed have - and fully electric power steering. The article implies the latter, which feels like the steering out of an old Cadillac for the next Miata.

        If it uses an electric pump alone, however, it wouldn't be a problem. Lets hope for that.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The S2000 has electric power steering. So its nothing ground braking really. But it does save on parasitic power loss in comparison to a hydraulic pump.
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