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Auto blogFri, 17 Jan 2014 15:45:00 EST
Twenty-six years after it was introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the much anticipated fourth generation Mazda MX-5 Miata will meet the press at the 2015 Chicago show. A piece in Autocar refines some of the details on the larger, lighter Miata that a Mazda insider has said will be "our best-looking car ever."
The company has relented on the quest for the metric tonne, the 1000-kilogram (2,200-pound) target too difficult to achieve in light of cost constraints. You can still expect it to lose a generous dollop of weight - Autocar says a curb weight of 1,100 kg (2,420 pounds) will still make it the lightest in its class. And Mazda will be stressing a fun driving experience through light weight and a modest amount of naturally-aspirated horsepower. Engine capacities of 1.5 and 2.0 liters are expected. Sounds familiar (and good), right?
The Miata's interpretation of Kodo design will be veer from that found on the Mazda3 and Mazda6, with "very clean and simple" lines marking out "more muscular proportions" and elongated bodywork on a longer wheelbase. A stretched engine bay will make room for the current Skyactiv engine and perhaps the future Skyactiv 2 powerplants, initial reports suggesting there could be a 30-percent increase in fuel economy from the moment it arrives.
Auto sales in Europe have been a tricky proposition for some years, but Mazda has seen some success on the backs of the CX-5 and new Mazda6. According to a report form Automotive News Europe, though, that doesn't mean we should be looking for the Japanese manufacturer to set up production operations there.
Mazda's European CEO, Jeff Guyton, explained to AN that "Our intention is to have manufacturing scale. That gives you scale economy and quality through repeatability." In other words, a big honking plant in one part of the world is preferable to a half dozen small factories building the same vehicles.
European sales for Mazda are up 5.4 percent in the first half of 2013, with 74,000 units sold. That kicked the Zoom-Zoom brand's market share up from one to 1.2 percent. Small gains, but gains nonetheless. According to Guyton, Mazda would need to sell 200,000 units of just one model in Europe for local production to make sense. Mazda's best European year saw 320,000 units sold across the entire range.
The original Mazda Miata broke onto the automotive scene in 1989 and was a huge success. However, the convertible's genesis goes all the way back to the early '80s. Bob Hall and Dean Case were among the inside men of the program on the US side, and they were on hand at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca during the recent MX-5 event there to tell some of their stories about the project's beginning.
Hall was on the Miata project from very early on, and one of his most fascinating stories is how the convertible got its shape. The droptop wasn't necessarily going to be a rear-wheel drive roadster. There were both front-wheel-drive coupe and mid-engine concepts being considered. In fact, the classic look of the NA generation was the least favorite of the three at the sketch stage.
Hall comes off as a jokester hiding a genius mind. He has a fountain of information in his head about what a Miata should be, but it all comes down to "less is more." However, he admits that it's easy to conceive that idea, but it's much harder to actually execute it well.