NEWS: This is the ND Mazda MX-5 Miata

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Also, Duran Duran performed.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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33 Responses to NEWS: This is the ND Mazda MX-5 Miata

  1. Steve said:

    As an NB owner, I am a little anxious to see if I will feel the “need” to add the ND to my collection. Thankfully, the NC left me cold so I was satisfied with my NB…

  2. Midship Runabout said:

    Is the excruciating music being blasted at the venue, or is that just for the private torture of the home audience?

  3. Tj. said:

    There’s a live stream of the unveil here:
    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mazda-live

  4. Jim Daniels said:

    Looks real nice. The best looking MX-5 yet. Keep the horsepower to weight ratio low and the price down and it will be a winner. Zoom Zoom

  5. Dave said:

    At the simultaneous event in Japan, they had a white one w/ the top up. It looked amazing in white. This is a beautiful design. It does push it more than any previous Miata designs, and it’s the most aggressive so far. It’s incredible how tightly the kept the lid on this. My favorite part of the unveil is when Duran Duran played A View To A Kill ;P

  6. xs10shl said:

    I like it. Mazda made some good choices.

  7. pstar said:

    The NC looks ….better. To be fair, when the NC first came out in 2005 or so, it too looked poor compared to the outgoing fully evolved NBs. The facelift transformed the NC.

    Miatas have always looked stubby and thick/fat (NB the least), but this new one might be the worst. And the headlights look like a Nissan NX2000s except the top is diagonal instead of flat. Hopefully everybody goes nuts for this new one though, and Mazda dealers have to offer outrageous deals on the old fashioned NCs to get them out of the lot. Fingers crossed!

  8. Kevin Truong said:

    I think everyone should reserve their comments until they drive one, put it through its paces, and start modifying (usually first with right drop and some awesome wheels). I for one am waiting for that day. Most people bashing the car don’t get the point anyways. I mean look at the FRS/BRZ for example. People that like the car, buy it, mod it, drive it…get it. And that’s all that matters. What do you drive?…lol…

  9. max said:

    Don’t like it , its butt ugly , same as I’m a real fan of Mazda , i have 3 but i won’t be buying one , my na still looks better .

  10. dankan said:

    I am not a fan of the front end, and feel they could have done better. I can forgive that for everything else they’ve done with it. I’ll take base one with a radio delete, and start planning a custom paint job…

  11. mister k said:

    i like it. i love it that mazda still caters to declining markets. unlike that frog over at nissan who’s only interested in global altima variants

  12. VincenzoL said:

    I am really enjoying everything about this design so far. I can see some Italian design influences, perhaps from the collaboration that started with Alfa Romeo and then had the rug pulled out by Alfa’s big cheese. In the article with Bob Hall he mentions the original NA’s inspiration was more Ferrari GTO than Lotus Elan. I can clearly see the ND design paying homage to the GTO (and therefore the NA Miata). Almost as if the ND is a modern, mini, roadster version of the GTO. I can’t wait to see how it evolves when it get into owners’ hands that are eager to modify it.

    To all the naysayers that are unhapy with the styling and calling it downright ugly… I’m sorry, but unless you have this car parked next to a Lamborghini Miura or perhaps another late 60’s Italian iconic sports car I find that claim rather bold. Last time I checked there were not any memorable designs coming out of Japan and little elsewhere. As a matter of fact, ever since the hard lines inspired by Chris Banlgle at BMW, the roads have been littered with those tiresome and tediuous looking cars. IMO, not many truly good lookng cars have been produced in the last 15 years or so unless you can count exotics. I don’t live in the land of exotics and even if did have that kind of coin I don’t want to live with their finicky dispositions. Thank God for a company like Mazda that is willing to give the masses something as stunning as this. Personally, I think is the best looking Miata since the NA and easily Mazda’s most beautiful design since the FD RX-7.

  13. Mark said:

    Does no one else see that this car is a miniature version of the Jaguar F-type? The tail lights were stolen right off of the Jaguar.

    • Dave said:

      I’ve heard such comments, but I don’t see it at all. The F-Type taillights are basically the E-Type taillight form stylized in a modern and exaggerated way. The ND taillights are an evolution–albeit radical–of the “paper clip” form of the original NA taillights. I guess they’re parallel in the sense that both are heritage designs…

    • boyee said:

      I thought this at first too, but the Jag has very narrow/thin tail lights compared to the MX-5. Plus the MX-5 has a full circle (reminiscent of the traditional paperclip as mentioned). I am also a fan of the entire design and will be there in person to check it out tomorrow!

    • Ben Hsu said:

      It’s unlikely it was stolen. The product development cycles are so far in advance — the facelift ND is already done — that it was more coincidence than anything. The Mazda design team was probably thinking “oh shit” or something similar when the Jaguar debuted.

  14. gypsy said:

    Great job Mazda, I wouldn’t have bought any of the mx5 predecessors, this one looks spot on 🙂

  15. … behemoth disappointment! Pregnant roller skate archetype indicative of Pontiac’s Solstice, with just an eencie-weencie bit more botox around the grill, it looks like the perfect car a gay guy would drive, to take his boyfriend out for quiche, and then off to the Hollywood Bowl, for a Barbra Streisand concert! — asj.

  16. Randy said:

    It’s grown on me. I wasn’t sure right away, as my favorite is still the NA – maybe just because it was so fresh at the time? Dunno. I consider the NB to be a facelift, so it’s still nice. Wasn’t crazy about the styling of the NC. Maybe they were trying too hard… The grille I thought was the weakest element – I could only think of a psychotic guppy. Wasn’t really crazy about the wheel well treatment, either. I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy an NC, but given that and the earlier models, sitting side-by-side at the dealer’s lot; same mileage and condition; same price, I’d go for the earlier version.

    The ND has cleaner lines. The grille is more defined. Headlights are a little more aggressive than I’d have done, but just a touch.

    I’m really glad Mazda didn’t go with the sharp angles and swirls that are on their other lines. I think that would have been too harsh on this. Save ’em for the spaceship RX-8’s re-entry.

    What Ben said about the lead times, and the references to Jaguar’s styling, I’d love to know how it is that cars developed nowhere near each other, cloaked in camo for a year, can have similar styling,

    I see some Ferrari California in the taillights, and okay, some Jag, but that’s not a bad thing. If it’s fun to zip around in, it’ll sell.

    It’ll probably outsell the Toyobaru twins! (I’ve seen ONE on the road around here.)

    • Randy said:

      Just saw he Jag commercial. Okay, so there’s a round part and the pointy “slice,” but I’m not going to say the Miata’s are a copy… Similar-ish? Yes, but a copy? No.

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