Amidst the festivities of the Miata’s 25th birthday bash, Mazda quietly unveiled the chassis for the next-generation MX-5 off in the corner while barely saying a word about it. To true Mazdafarians, however, they don’t need to. All the answers are written in steel and aluminum and it’s clear that the next-generation MX-5 will be a return to form for the beloved roadster, a throwback to the first-generation.
Mazda has been making great strides with its high-compression SkyActiv engines in recent years, but it’s more than just mills. SkyActiv represents a whole new way of development in which lightness and efficiency are infused into every fiber the vehicle’s being. The ND’s underlying bones are in fact the first ever FR (front-engine, rear-wheel-drive) SkyActiv Chassis. It might not look very different, but as Mazda says, they changed everything to make it the same.
The biggest aspect you will notice is that the chassis very, very, compact. Early reports say that it weighs over 220 pounds less than the outgoing NC chassis. Much of this is due to what is a clear and excessive use of aluminum parts, including the rear arms. When the NA debuted, the FC and soon-to-arrive FD RX-7s made heavy use of aluminum in their suspension arms, but the NA used stamp steel to keep the car’s cost down to a paltry $13,500.
The suspension points mirror the NA, as do the mechanical layout and ancillaries. The only major difference is that the MX-5’s trademark PPF (power plant frame) bracing the transmission to the differential as swapped sides due to the exhaust being moved to the other side. Even the steering layout is same with the exception of electric power steering unit. placed fore of the front cross-member so the overall center of gravity stays low.
It looks like it will have short overhangs, confirming what we’ve heard from our sources: that the ND will be highly focused on lightness and agility.
The SkyActiv engine, in its first ever longitudinally mounted orientation, even sports a twin-cam valve covers that resembles the original B6 engine’s. The ball shift knob atop the transmission adds to the overall classic feel.
JNCers will be pleased to find that the ND’s hubs have subtracted one stud from the NC and are now back to four lugs. As we know, small wheels are best, and it appears that the MX-5 will once again buck the bigger-is-better trend for what truly matters — fleetness of foot. The chassis mockup wears 17-inch wheels resembling the 14-inchers from the Protége, but these are likely placeholders.
Overall, the chassis is elegant and compact, with simple packaging that promises a true driver’s car. If the body is as beautiful as this chassis, and we’ve been told that it is, the next MX-5 will be a damn fine car. Kudos to Mazda for not only building a car that looks like a heritage model, but one that follows its roots in spirit too.