Mazda Design Director Derek Jenkins on the New MX-5

Hard to believe that the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) has only undergone four significant revisions since its initial launch in 1989. Back then, the concept of a compact sports car hadn’t existed for the better part of 10 years, and Mazda had clearly seen a gap in the market.

Compared to iconic British sports cars of the late 50s and 70s, the Miata was billed as a reliable car that could entertain its driver without leaving a puddle of oil in the driveway. The affordable two-passenger droptop made its debut to high acclaim and was well above expectations.

Through its subsequent generations designers and engineers worked hard to improve the vehicle and make it conform to increasingly stringent safety legislation. They even opted to fit a folding hardtop roof to improve comfort. But with all these advancements in safety and livability, the essence of the Mazda roadster was being diluted.

To rectify this and return to the MX-5’s light, compact and agile roots, designers in all three of the company’s global studios — in Japan the US and Europe — went to work to recapture the spirit of the original. The fourth generation of what has now become a veritable automotive icon is therefore shorter and lower than its predecessor but sits on a wider track.

Its body has been pulled out around the wheels, accentuating its stance and FR proportions like no other model before it, bucking the upsizing trend to create a car that’s actually — wait for it — 35mm shorter in overall length than the 1989 original!

Seeing the new car in the metal on the Paris show stand, it was impossible not to notice the significant differences over its predecessors. Its slender yet aggressive front lamp graphics lend a more modern design identity to the front face, accentuated by the dramatically low hood and flat bottomed lower air intake — a departure from the current ‘smiling’ mouth of other Mazdas. The detailing of the hood shut line over the front bumper is also worthy of mention, rising up over the nose to give the Mazda badge more prominence on the larger surface.


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