MX-5 sees the light
Mazda’s iconic roadster is shedding weight, writes Peter Lyon
‘‘ It’s now time to get back to basics and build a coupe that handles like no other
ABACK-TO-BASICS Mazda MX-5 is being readied for action. Tapping the look of the Ibuki concept car way back in 2003, when it starred for Mazda at the Tokyo Motor Show, the new droptop baby should be ready for action in 2012.
The next MX-5 is likely to be much lighter, more compact and quicker than the current model, with help from Mazda’s coming SKY engine family.
‘‘The car got bigger and heavier over the last decade, but it’s now time to reverse the process and get back to basics, and build a coupe that handles like no other,’’ says former MX-5 chief engineer Takao Kijima.
The Ibuki was seen as a pointer to the MX-5 that hit the road in 2005, despite an unfinished exterior, with the RX-8’s twin-backbone frame, a convertible body and super-short overhangs.
It missed the trip last time but now there is strong evidence from inside Mazda that the ideas behind the Ibuki will drive the next MX-5.
A Mazda insider says the new roadster will pick up the same philosophy used for the RX-8, with a ‘‘super-front midship four-cylinder layout.’’ Translating from Japan-speak, that means a four-cylinder engine mounted behind the front axle line for an optimum front-rear weight balance.
For Mazda, that also includes mounting the fuel tank and main silencer forward of the rear axle, meaning that all critical components are situated inside the car’s wheelbase.
By using a revised version of the RX-8s twin-backbone frame, Mazda is aiming to create a convertible with the chassis rigidity of a closed-top car.
The cars Guide insider says all of this information comes from the Ibuki, a car whose speci- fications and body structure are increasingly appearing in patents in the US and Japan.
As for the final shape of the new MX-5, Mazda’s thinking is reflected in the Shinari concept car that made its debut at a Milan technology in August.
Word from Mazda headquarters in Hiroshima suggests that the Shinari contains strategic design elements of future Mazdas, especially those of the new MX-5.
When asked about the relevance of the Ibuki, one Mazda engineer could not deny the obvious links.
‘‘The Ibuki is not a one-off future concept car. It contains crucial aspects of the next generation roadster,’’ he says.
He went on to say that Mazda’s research and development team is aiming for a kerb weight less than 1000kg for the new MX-5, making the car far lighter than the current model.
There are also likely to be shorter overhangs and a smaller-capacity engine from the all-new SKY engine series, most probably a 1.5-litre four.
Lighter and quicker: the new MX-5 will have a four-cylinder engine mounted behind the front axle line. Illustration: Holiday Auto magazine