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In a temporarily repurposed airport hanger in Monterey, CA, the world caught its first glimpse of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata tonight, and I was fortunate enough to attend in person along with my fellow auto media colleagues, Mazda execs, a couple hundred Miata devotees and, oddly, a fair number of Duran Duran fans. The klieg lights have dimmed, Simon Le Bon is no longer ringing in my ears, and I'm left to ponder what I've seen. I've scavenged my notes – and my Twitter feed – to give you some details and brief thoughts.

Fair Warning: I can't claim to be completely impartial (I own a second-generation NB and consider the Miata franchise to be one of but a few sacrosanct franchises in modern motoring), but I will share my honest first impressions of the new car, both good and bad.

Here are my notes:
  • 2,200 pounds. That's roughly what this car will weigh if we can take Mazda at its word that it has managed to cut over 100 kilos – 220 pounds – versus today's NC Miata. Given that this car will almost certainly be safer, stiffer, better equipped and more refined, that's incredibly impressive engineering. In fact, that's lighter than an NB generation car.
  • First Impression: 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. Largely free of adornments, I think this is a shape that will age well.
  • While still looking like a proper MX-5, this ND trades some of its predecessors' occasionally cartoonish and friendly rounded lines in favor of something more aggressive.
  • Piercing stare from those small, lightweight LED headlamps contrasts with its large lower air intake.
  • Profile is clean with almost zero character lines but nice barrel to the doors and fenders, with prominent J-kick to doorline retained and better rear-drive proportions thanks to a more harmonious door line/rear wheel relationship. Fender-resident side lenses are a nice design detail that add visual thrust.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata rear three-quarter view at reveal
  • Rear end has a lot of taper to it and is likely to be the car's most controversial view. There's almost some scaled-down Jaguar F-Type in the way it curves inward, not to mention the taillamp forms. The rear bumper cap looks better integrated than before, and the whole back end looks more athletic, but not necessarily prettier. It looked better the more I looked at it, but it's going to take some getting used to for me, mostly due to those light fixtures.
  • Mazda claims the new car is lower, too, and it definitely seems to sit more snuggly on its wheels, but as Tom Matano, one of the fathers of the original Miata reminded me, "See, this is a design model... 'design height' means fully loaded with gas and one person. So it's not necessarily like a production car sitting in a parking lot." Said another way, these cars could sit slightly lower than unladen production models.
  • There are two Miatas in these photos, both Soul Red. The car shown indoors is a left-hand-drive working prototype riding on 18-inch 16-inch four-lug wheels, while the outdoor car is a right-hand-drive fiberglass mockup wearing 17-inch four-lug alloys.
  • Mazda officials tell me there are just three drivable prototypes of this car in the world – the one seen here, one in Barcelona and another in Tokyo for the other reveal events.
  • The interior looks like a major improvement in terms of material choice and overall aesthetics. That's important – the cabin was arguably the biggest single area that needed improving in the current car.
  • Center-mount tachometer, proper handbrake and a stubby gearshift lever appear to be all business. Steering wheel looks nice, too with a not-too-thin, not-too-thick rim. Excellent.
  • Despite being a smaller overall car footprint-wise, officials say the NC's headroom and overall interior overall have been maintained.
  • Handsome body-color door panels seen here will be limited to upper trim levels. It's possible the infotainment screen won't be fitted to all models as well. I know many Autoblog commenters have expressed aesthetic reservations about such tablet-style mounts, but at least the dashboard is very thin and minimal as a result, so sight lines and cabin airiness should improve.
  • I worryingly spotted a sport-mode switch on the outdoor mockup, adjacent the six-speed gearshift. Mazda vehicle development engineer Dave Coleman assures me that the manual model will receive no such affectations – this fiberglass model accidentally used a shifter surround panel from an automatic model. Manual Miatas should be all sport, all the time.
  • I know as an enthusiast I'm not supposed to care about such things, but the cupholders appear to continue a Miata tradition of being truly lousy afterthoughts. The cars we were shown had plug-in passenger knee-knockers and 'chicken wing' arm-reach units just ahead of the rear bulkhead. There might be better ones beneath the lidded center console storage but Mazda officials wouldn't share what's inside.
  • The engine: Mazda still isn't saying how big, or how powerful it is, but it will certainly incorporate Skyactiv learnings and I'm anticipating our model will come with a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. A turbo is also possible. Expect specs to be revealed soon, possibly at next month's Paris Motor Show.
  • Cutaway powertrain diagrams reveal that the new car is in fact a front mid-engined design, with the entire block in between the axles. That's typically great for weight distribution, less so for interior space. Still, it's the proper tradeoff for this type of car.
  • Mazda previously revealed that this car will make the switch to electric power steering – in this case, a rack-mounted dual-pinion system. The company's engineers have been far more successful tuning for feel than most automakers (see: RX-8, new Mazda3 and Mazda6), but proper calibration will be a make-or-break feature of the MX-5.
  • Officials dutifully deflected questions about the rumored hardtop coupe version of this car – or even a lift-off hardtop accessory. Retired MiataFather Matano did express support to me for the idea of a hardtop coupe model, going on to say, "This time, well, a club racer – a coupe – would make sense. And it could even be made lighter by taking stuff out of it." As he is no longer working for Mazda, he says he has no personal knowledge as to whether Mazda is working on such a model.
  • That said, I certainly expect a power-retractable hardtop (PRHT) to make a return appearance, but one wasn't shown. The fabric soft top is said to be similar in style and operation to the NC, but I didn't notice a header latch, so it's probably fully automatic in operation.
  • No on-sale date has been given, but given that it's a 2016 model year, it cannot go on sale before January 1, 2015. More than likely, it will hit dealers significantly later. Given what little has been seen of development mules and prototypes so far, third-quarter of next year, (before summer is out) seems like a decent bet.
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 – it is its spiritual center of gravity, its moral center.

As the best-selling roadster of all time and perhaps the most road-raced car of the modern era, the Miata is a car that's pretty near to the spiritual center of gravity and moral center of the auto enthusiast world, too. Only a proper thrashing will really seal the deal, but upon first encounter, I don't see anything in the new fourth-generation Miata that should endanger that lovefest. What may be in danger, conversely, is my bank account.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 198 Comments
      Jonathan Brown
      • 4 Months Ago

      Excellent review by Chris and as an owner of a miata himself one that I find most interesting. Specifically his desire to possibly own one of these. Truly an iconic sports car and this iteration is quite attractive. Well done mazda!

      Andre Neves
      • 4 Months Ago

      Isn't it funny how while every other new generation of automobile out there gets heavier and heavier, Mazda is making them lighter and lighter.  Bravo!

      Once the full specs and pricing are released, I'll most likely go drop a deposit at my local dealership for one.  I have been anticipating this release for quite some time now and it wouldn't look bad next to my wife's '14 Mazda 6 in the driveway :)

        Christopher Anderson
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Andre Neves

        The new GTI also dropped about 200 lbs. The new F-150 dropped a ton of weight; ditto for the Range Rover. Lots of cars are still going the "bigger, heavier" route, but the reverse is a clearly emerging trend not unique to the Miata. 

        Having said that, major kudos to Mazda for finding 220 lbs to trim out of an already very light car.

          PiCASSO
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Christopher Anderson

          Don't forget the current CTS... it got physically larger but lost almost 300-lbs.

          Izaerian
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Christopher Anderson

          I wouldn't necessarily include the F150 in that equation.  Yes it dropped weight, but it is only dropping weight that was tacked on just for old EPA regulation skirts.

          Jeff
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Christopher Anderson

          Actually, VW overestimated the weight savings.  The new GTI per published specs is only 133 lbs lighter than the old model.

          Christopher Anderson
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Christopher Anderson

          @PiCASSO

          I didn't remember that one; that's a strong improvement.

          @Jeff

          I think the Euro ones were closer to the 100 kg loss that VW quoted, but yes, you are right that the US ones didn't drop as much.

        Lynchenstein
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Andre Neves

        Weight savings has trickle down benefits everywhere. From fuel economy to handling to component wear, it's all good news. The tricky part is reducing the weight while maintaining quality and other key characteristics, such as safety. With SkyActive, Mazda goes to great lengths to optimize anything they can to achieve their weight, performance and fuel economy goals. I sure hope the ND is a driver as much as it is a looker. My NA is really showing its age.

          CV
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Lynchenstein

          Might be time for a new one while you do a full restoration on your original?

      Autoblogist
      • 4 Months Ago

      Hers something to ponder. This car weighs about 200 lbs less than the carbon fiber tubbed Alfa 4C. It employs the same double wishbone front suspension and has a better multi - link rear suspension verses the 4C's Macpherson set-up. The interior seems to be better appointed as well. What was the point of an expensive CF tub if a sub $30k roadster weighs less and if rumors prove true probably get a 200hp+ version? 

        Leather Bear
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist

        Re the Miata's lightness compared to the Alfa, the Miata also has the additional weight of the driveshaft and rear axle assembly (something the transverse mid-engined Alfa doesn't have).

        Stuka87
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist

        The main advantage of a CF tub is is rigidity. There is essentially no chassis flex with a CF tub. If you were to make an aluminum or steel chassis that had the same torsional rigidity, it would be heavier than the CF chassis.

          Autoblogist
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Stuka87

          Well in terms of rigidity, the C7 Stingray Conv. is stiffer than the 12c spider and the weight difference is 25lbs hardly an advantage. So rigidity is becoming less of a factor with new bonding techniques for aluminum and high strength steel.

        imag
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist

        It does make me wonder.  The carbon tubbed Mclaren 650S is heavier than a steel framed Noble M600 as well.

        We shall see how much the Miata weighs in US spec.  It might require additional airbags, just as the 4C did.

        JSH
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist

        Carbon isn't only about weight savings.  It is also used to increase stiffness and to specifically tune that stiffness in ways that are difficult with steel.

        Jose Antonio
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist

        Ponder this... SAFETY.  If you really want to drive fast... 

          Kyle
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Jose Antonio

          Correct. Safety was also the reason F1 cars switched to CFRP tubs.

        Krazeecain
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist
        I think the 4c is quite a bit wider, but even that doesn't account for it being so much heavier... wtf. Carbon fiber is a lie! T_T
        mcdull
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Autoblogist

        How many Alfa Romeo buyers will care if there is a cheaper alternative out there? They probably don't even have Mazda in their shopping list

      Spartan
      • 4 Months Ago

      I like it.  I just hope they give it some power, at least S2000 level power.  

        graphikzking
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Spartan

        The car will be 400-500 lbs lighter than an S2000 so it doesn't really need S2000 power numbers. 

        Also the S2000 could barely get 20mpg which in a 4cylinder lightweight car is pretty bad. (Corvette gets better city mpg than my buddies S2000 got and that was BEFORE his supercharger). 

        2.0 skyactiv 4cylinder with 170 hp. Then a 2.3- 2.5 liter to get about 200hp. Both engines should return anywhere from 30combined and possible 34combined. 

        Then have a turbo Mazdaspeed version (or supercharged) that will put down about 250hp and possibly like 27 combined mpg. 

        Yes unfortunately mpg is important in these cars these days as well. Especially for resale!

          Mark
          • 4 Months Ago
          @graphikzking

          My S2k which had a Comptech SC got 20 mpg in mostly spirited around town driving.  More than once on highway trips I pulled 30 mpg.  It's all how you drive it as is true with any vehicle.

          Indubitably
          • 4 Months Ago
          @graphikzking

          My friend has an s2000. When driven correctly and not hitting vtec at every stop light, he gets mid 20s. On the highway going 75, he gets 28-30 mpg. Those lower mpg numbers you're mentioning are people with lead feet hitting vtec all day long -- which I do admit is fun. 

        Humberto Yi
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Spartan

        Your being down voted I guess because people don't want hp?  50 hp I guess is good enough since obviously your the only one who cares??  No idea

          Ratpack
          • 4 Months Ago *Edited*
          @Humberto Yi

          i bet those downvoters are hipsters, it's not "cool" to have hp... :D

        Hans Wurst
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Spartan

         unfortunately it looks as if there will only be two engines....one with 130 and one with 160 hp

      MechE
      • 4 Months Ago

      I give it a 10.....well maybe a 9.5.  Bravo on the weight savings,  that is quite remarkable.  At very first glance the styling looked great but as I scrolled through the photos I started to think something doesn't quite look right.  Overall, it's a very nice look, nothing crazy and fairly clean.  I like the aggressive features and rear curvature. 

      zoom_zoom_zoom
      • 4 Months Ago

      4 lug wheels.  Interesting.

        karlInSanDiego
        • 4 Months Ago
        @zoom_zoom_zoom

        Why did they ever go to 5?  4 lugs were always enough for a roadster of this size.

          staceyu8
          • 4 Months Ago
          @karlInSanDiego

          The NC also shared a platform with the RX8. That's why. 

        Jamie Houk
        • 4 Months Ago
        @zoom_zoom_zoom

        In a car of this weight and power there is no need for a heavier five lug wheel. 

        superchan7
        • 4 Months Ago
        @zoom_zoom_zoom

        The MX-5 has always had 4-lug wheels.

          Kathy Talbot
          • 2 Months Ago
          @superchan7

          Not true; the NC went to 5 lug wheels...reason my NC snow tire/wheels will not transfer to the new ND if that becomes the "plan".

      SethG
      • 4 Months Ago

      A couple things:

      First, give credit to Mazda. They have a design language (Kodo) that has been very successfully applied to many of its cars. Yet, they designed the Miata without any strict adherence to the design language. There are some hints of Kodo here and there but this car stands alone. Other manufactures (Ford, Audi, etc.) should take note. Some design elements serve certain cars better than others and it's more important to make a cohesive good looking car than to make a car that looks like everything else on the dealer's lot.

      Second: Mazda has been given credit for keeping this car under wraps. I guess that's a good thing. Now we see how they pulled this off. There are virtually no prototypes and there's very little information about powertrain, performance, etc. Yes, Mazda kept the looks of the Miata secret. But this car is farther from production-ready than many new car reveals.

      Third: There's much to learn about this car but I like what I see.

        superchan7
        • 4 Months Ago
        @SethG

        Mazda is small enough to be able to avoid sticking the "official grille" onto a true sports car.  A Kodo-like upright grille on the MX-5 would be a disaster.

        Feurig
        • 4 Months Ago
        @SethG

        I think they should have kept more adherence to the Kodo design language. It's by far one of the most appealing ones out there and would serve this car better than its current design.

          SethG
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Feurig

          I don't know. I think Mazda has been lucky in that Kodo looks great on its crossovers and sedans. That doesn't mean it will look great on a roadster. I'm glad they gave the Miata designers some freedom.

      Jeremy Conley
      • 4 Months Ago

      No longer the 90's chick car! Nice.

      Sue Muttersbach
      • 4 Months Ago

      I felt fortunate to be there too and am glad I wasn't the only one who thought the music was a tad loud.  Very well thought out and written review by Chris.

      The color of this MX-5 was absolutely stunning!  I'm super pleased with this new model.

      Brandon
      • 4 Months Ago

      Immediately at the bottom of the article is an advert for the new Corolla.

      Corolla: the anti-Miata. 

      Jarda
      • 4 Months Ago
      Write a comment. Then edit it. Wait a while. Reload the page. Try to find your comment.
      typhoon5000
      • 4 Months Ago

      The indoor car has 16" wheels, not 18", reading the tire size in the photos.

        Christopher Anderson
        • 4 Months Ago
        @typhoon5000

        And they look great. To me, Miatas always look best with smaller wheels and a decently chunky sidewall.

        icemilkcoffee
        • 4 Months Ago
        @typhoon5000

        The tire size is an oddball 195/50/16 tough. Not too many good choices there.

          Christopher Anderson
          • 4 Months Ago
          @icemilkcoffee

          The Elise used that size at some point, so there are a couple good R-Comps in that size out there. 

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