2011 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The plan to return the Mazda MX-5 Miata to its roots with a serious weight-saving scheme is nothing new. Nor is the plan to fit it with a tremendously efficient SkyActiv engine. But lopping 700-plus pounds from a still-lightweight roadster? That's new.
Crediting a "senior insider" at Mazda, InsideLine says the engineering team behind the next-gen MX-5 has a goal of cutting 720 pounds from the car's current 2,480-pound curb weight. That would bring the total down to just 1,760 pounds--lighter than a Lotus Elise--or more than 400 pounds lighter than the original 1989 Miata.
Previous reports had put the weight target closer to 2,200 pounds, making the new goal all the more surprising. Smaller is the key word in the lightening endeavor, as materials won't be allowed to get very exotic in the interest of price. Already equipped in third-generation form with an aluminum hood and trunk lid, the next MX-5 will find weight savings as much from its smaller engine and dimensions as it will any further savings in sheetmetal. The primary size reduction will be in width, though occupant space and crash testing will be countervailing factors in the quest for minimalism.
The unibody will be lighter, however, not just from reduced size, but also from use of higher-strength steel, which requires less material to perform the same job. It's pricier than milder steels, but not into aluminum or carbon fiber territory.
Minimalist specs are also credited with the weight drop, meaning it's likely to be sparsely furnished inside. True sports car fans will have no arguments with this, but the more mainstream (read: automatic transmission-equipped) buyer may not like the change.
We've previously heard that a 1.5-liter SkyActiv powerplant rated at perhaps 125-150 horsepower would get the nod for the next MX-5, but the engine could be as small as 1.4-liters, though power output would likely remain in the same zone. Fuel economy could be as high as 50 mpg with such an engine.
We're still in the early stages of the next MX-5's development, however, meaning it's all speculative until we see tires on asphalt--or at least on stage.