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The world’s best selling sports car has been reincarnated!  It’s none other than the 4th generation Mazda MX-5 – revealed globally last night in simultaneous events held in Japan, Spain, and the USA – and it promises, according to Mazda, a “dramatic leap in Jinba-ittai”, the Japanese term for ‘rider and horse as one’.

Styling takes cues from Mazda’s Kodo – Soul of Motion design language; however it has been modified from other Mazda models to be bespoke for the MX-5.  The new design is probably the greatest departure from the past 3 generations of the MX-5, which have spanned a 25 year history and sold more than 940 000 units as of July this year.  Clean, fluid lines dominate the design, with a low nose and sharp features such as the headlights and front air-dams, whilst the rear maintains a simple design.

Dynamite comes in small packages

Proportionally, the MX-5 has shrunk compared to its forebear, measuring 105mm shorter than the Mk3 at 3915mm, and sitting 20mm lower.  It does however sit 10mm wider; giving the overall hunkered down, wide stance appearance.  However space-wise, things should be more or less the same, as the overhangs front and rear have shrunk by 90mm, giving the roadster a ‘wheel at each corner’ design – something that bodes well for driving dynamics.

The interior design is all-new, focusing on maintaining an upmarket feel, with full leather interior, including sport seats, leather gear-lever, and a new touch-screen infotainment setup.  Also, for those who think a soft-top looks tacky, a hard-top model will be released later on, which will most likely be the model that arrives on South African shores.

Simplify, then add lightness… Mazda style…

A huge focus of the Mk4 MX-5 has been on weight saving, part of Mazda’s Gram Strategy, shaving off miniscule amounts of weight in every aspect to reduce weight overall.  Mazda claim the new model has lost 100Kg over the previous generation, which puts it around the 1050Kg kerb weight mark, although no official weight claim has been made.

Mazda claim the new MX-5 has a 50:50 weight balance though, with a majority of that weight centralised by bringing the engine closer to the cabin, and making items such as the roof mechanism as light as possible.  But will the spirit of Jinba-ittai still remain?  The signs look good.

What about the power?

Mazda has been tight-lipped on engine options and power outputs, but we suspect two engine variants will be offered, potentially 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre SkyActiv 4-pots.  Interestingly, one of these engines, if not both, will be turbocharged!  If you remember, we posted a Mazda teaser video a while back that sounds distinctly force-fed, meaning the new MX-5 may suffer from something never before seen in the roadster – turbo-lag.  It’ll also mean the lightweight sports car has a bucket-load of torque driving the rear wheels, and a manual 6-speed gearbox to connect it all.

We speculate, and at this stage it is just that, that the 1.5-litre will retain a naturally aspirated setup with figures of around 90kW and 180Nm, whilst the full-of-beans 2.0T engine will likely feature outputs of around 135kW and 280Nm.

The boring bits, and disappointing ones, are that the steering setup has now been changed to an electronically assisted one over the old-hat hydraulic setup.  In combination with a turbo, this may leave the MX-5 devoid of some of the feel it has been notorious for over the past 25 years.

What about Fiat/Alfa Romeo?

You may remember at one stage a confirmed statement from Alfa Romeo that they would be co-developing a new Alfa Romeo Spider based on the MX-5, and that both models would be produced in Japan.  However, Alfa has since decided that if it isn’t built in Italy, it isn’t an Alfa.  As such, Fiat, or potentially Abarth, will take the badging rights to the MX-5 twin.  The Fiat/Abarth roadster will in all likelihood feature a 1.4-litre turbo engine developing 125-135kW.

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