At 6:00pm Pacific Time, Mazda unveiled the fourth-gen Mazda MX-5 Miata globally and simultaneously in Tokyo, Monterey, and Barcelona. After arriving at Cannery Row in Monterey, we were shuffled into a black, tinted-windows bus headed to an undisclosed location. We thought the unveil may take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but the bus blew right past that. It was all rather ominous. Also, sadly, the bus was not a Mazda Parkway 26.
Instead, we were taken to a remote marina where a massive hangar and outdoor lounge had been constructed. Banners hinting at its shape were everywhere, but the actual ND was still under wraps under heavy security.
To keep media, dealers and select Miata owners distracted, Mazda provided numerous food stations and an open bar. Cleverly, each station was named after a different Miata chassis code. “NA” had appetizers and the red Chicago Auto Show car we profiled when it turned 25 earlier this year.
“NB” had the burgers and fries. “NC” was a taco station and “ND” had flatbread pizza.
Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve seen for now, but stay tuned. The unveil is just over an hour from now.
At 5:30, after most of us were fattened/liquored up nicely, we were herded into the hangar. It was dark inside. Mazda North America’s design chief Derek Jenkins got on stage to say a few words, smoke was pumped into the air, and a large screen opened up to give the world the first-ever glimpse of the ND MX-5 Miata.
Also, Duran Duran performed.
Initial thoughts: It is lower and visually wider than the NC. The hood is spectacularly low, a valley between curvaceous fenders that peak just aft of the front wheel hubs, then drop dramatically toward the nose. Its impossible hood height reminds us of Honda Preludes of yore, and is seemingly on par with that of a Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ, and remember the Toyobaru twins have flat-four engines.
Mazda showed two ND MX-5s, one a RHD Japan-market car with 16-inch alloys indoors, and a LHD US-spec model with 17-inch wheels. Those will be the two sizes offered.
The body has none of the wacky and often pointless surfacing that has taken over the modern auto industry. Jenkins explained that the design team specifically did not want any harsh lines along the body as a tribute to the classical shape of the NA.
Unlike most new cars, the beltline appears incredibly low. The body contours then flare up to muscular rear haunches emphasizing the FR layout before tapering off into a svelte rump.
The taillights are mounted very close together, and were inspired by the NA’s round elements within pill-shaped housings (which, we learned before, was in turn inspired by the Series 5 FC3S RX-7’s taillights). The pointy wings on their outer edges may seem a bit F-Typey, but the product life cycle is such that Mazda almost certainly developed them independently and were quite shocked to see them on the Jag.
The windshield frame is black, a lesson Mazda learned from some of its SEMA project cars as a way to give it even more visual lightness. It also creates the illusion that the cowl is pulled back sharply and at a steep angle.
However, the ND isn’t just visually light. Mazda confirmed that it had shaved off about 220 lbs off the outgoing NC, an astounding accomplishment considering the current one weighs only 2,500 lbs or so.
As we mentioned after analyzing the chassis at the New York Auto Show, the MX-5 has returned to a four-lug wheel.
Another weight savings measure comes from the interior. There is, notably, no glove box on the passenger side of the dash. We revealed this yesterday without having seen the car, but it is now officially confirmed. The cabin’s sole storage compartment is now located between the seatbacks.
The dash is a thing of beauty, with classical round vents on either side of the steering column and three circular climate control dials. A tach sits front and center in a simple and traditional instrument cluster.
On some trim levels the interior door panels will have a swath of body colored garnish, a wonderfully nostalgic touch. Though both prototypes were finished in Soul Red, there will be other yet-unnamed colors specific to the model.
After the unveil, we caught up with our friend Bob Hall, who had high praise for the ND. In fact, he liked it better than the NA he helped design. “It’s a better car for today’s market than the NA was for its market in the early 90s,” Hall said. “In a sense we had the easier job because we were starting from scratch. These guys had to walk a razor’s edge based on what was already established.”
And of course, he’s right. The ND is a stunning, more aggressive evolution of the nameplate, and yet it is unmistakably Miata. The only other modern car to maintain its visual genealogy generation after generation is the Porsche 911. The Miata has managed to do it for 25 years, an incredible feat, and in the process become an icon, as easily recognizable as the Mustang or the Beetle. That’s how heritage is forged.