Next-Generation Mazda MX-5 Miata Could Use Carbon-Fiber to Get Even Lighter

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

When it made its debut last year, the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata surprised and delighted by shrinking, not only in size but in weight. Dimensionally, it was pretty much the same size as the 1990 original, while its weight was down nearly to 1990 levels but with more modern conveniences, a stiffer body, more power, and more airbags. Mazda isn’t stopping there. Autocar has uncovered hints from the car’s program manager that the next-generation Miata, due around 2021, will shed even more weight.

Critically, the next Miata won’t get any smaller. Project leader Nobuhiro Yamamoto tells Autocar that the size will stay much the same as it is today (which, by the way, is rather small). So instead, Mazda will keep the current car’s footprint but continue to chase weight out of the design. Yamamoto also notes in his comments to Autocar that Mazda hopes to do so by moving toward lightweight materials such as carbon fiber—the automaker is developing an affordable take on that material. Mazda seems to be relying on a cascade effect: lowering the mass of the structure and body allows for smaller brakes (lighter!), smaller wheels and tires (lighter!), and a smaller engine (you guessed it!).

To us, the most important takeaway is that Mazda is even considering building a fifth-generation Miata. After the current model was introduced last year, we wondered whether Mazda could continue to make a business case for a small, lightweight, inexpensive roadster in the face of decreased demand for such cars. However, continued work to lower the MX-5’s weight and increase its efficiency should pay off elsewhere in Mazda’s lineup, as lessons learned are likely to be of great use on Mazda’s next-generation cars and crossovers.

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