MX-5 sees the light

Mazda’s iconic road­ster is shed­ding weight, writes Peter Lyon

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

‘‘ 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

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