Mazda’s original MX-5 Miata adhered to a sports car philosophy proven by automakers such as Maserati, Lotus, Porsche and Alfa Romeo: if you build a car light and nimble enough, power output is of secondary importance. The original MX-5 wasn’t fast in a straight line, but the car could carry an amazing amount of speed into corners, even in stock trim. Many “manly cars” grew accustomed to seeing MX-5’s whistle by them on a track, especially tight, technical tracks that favored corners over long straights.
Mazda’s kept that philosophy consistent over the years, but even the MX-5 has fallen victim to the larger-and-heavier disease that seems to plague all modern automobiles. The current generation MX-5 is a few inches longer and wider, but it’s gained some 302 pounds thanks to a bigger engine, more amenities and additional safety features. If you’re going to build a car with superior handling and superior fuel economy, ever-increasing bulk isn’t the way to go about it.
Mazda is keenly aware of this, and rumors have them targeting a curb weight of 1,760 pounds for the next generation MX-5. Rumors also say that the car’s engine will take a step backward in displacement, and that Mazda will use a 1.4 liter, turbocharged, direct-injected SkyActiv engine in the next MX-5. Rumors also say the engine will be good for at least 150 horsepower, which would give the car a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 1:11.73. The current car delivers a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 1:14.85, so (on paper at least) the performance will be increased. Given the right suspension tuning, a weight below 1,800 pounds would make the next-gen MX-5 stupid fast in the corners, and that’s exactly what Mazda had in mind when they designed the original car.
Given all the structural and safety requirements that automakers must meet today, I personally doubt that Mazda will achieve their goal. I’m sure they could get there if money were no object, but how many consumers would buy a carbon-fiber-monocoque MX-5 for $150,000? Even getting close to the targeted way would yield significant gains in fuel economy and handling, and who doesn’t like saving the planet while you defy the laws of physics in a turn?
Source: Inside Line