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Mazda unveils next MX-5 foundation

Mazda has laid bare its next generation MX-5 sports-car, taking the unusual step of unveiling just the barest of essentials -- the engine and chassis -- at this week’s New York motor show.

The unprecedented move was driven by the Japanese brand’s desire to show the world that the next-generation MX-5 is still purely Mazda DNA, even though there will also be an Alfa Romeo version of the same car, made in the same factory.

The deal between the unlikely pair was brokered almost two years ago: Mazda needed economies of scale to help develop the new MX-5, and Alfa Romeo was in need of a fun, affordable sports-car.

The Mazda MX-5 and the Alfa Romeo will look completely different, say company insiders, and may not even share the same engines.

The Mazda MX-5 is due to bow first, and is expected to be unveiled later this year ahead of its arrival in showrooms in the second half of 2015.

Mazda says the new MX-5 is going back to basics: it’s expected to be smaller and lighter than the car it replaces.

Mazda famously measures the weight of every component that goes into an MX-5 -- once even developing a thinner radio antenna -- in its bid to trim weight.

Carsguide understands the company has set an ambitious target of 1000kg for the mass of the new model. Given today’s crash safety standards and the weight of new technology, it will be no mean feat if Mazda can reach this goal.

The original Mazda MX-5 weighed just 940kg, the second-generation model weighed 1065kg, while the current version is the heaviest yet, at 1167kg, due in part to its folding metal roof.

Mazda unveiled a “super light” 1000kg version of the current MX-5 as a concept car at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show, for the 20th anniversary of the vehicle, likely as a tease for the new model now under development.

Mazda has only released three generations of the MX-5 over the past 25 years; the current edition has been around since 2005 and is due to be replaced in its 10th year of production.

Spy photos of the fourth-generation 2015 Mazda MX-5 during testing show the next model is smaller than the current car in its overall dimensions, but the footprint has grown (longer wheelbase, wider track), and a soft-top roof returns.

On the new model Mazda is also expected to introduce its unique fuel-saving “Skyactiv” technology, the name given to a special type of engine tuning that runs a high compression ratio which delivers fuel economy savings. Meanwhile, Mazda also unveiled this week the final edition that will see out the current MX-5.

Just 1000 versions of the 25th anniversary Mazda MX-5 will be made globally, with 40 destined for Australia. Due on sale later this year, they will have Bilstein sports suspension, while the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with gain specially modified pistons, conrods and a flywheel. 

Visually, the limited production model will gain unique 25thanniversary badging (including a build number), white leather trim (with “25thanniversary” embossed in the headrests), and charcoal-finish alloy wheels.

Only one body colour is available -- metallic red -- and one body style: the folding metal roof. To reflect the sales mix of the current model, about 30 per cent of the 25thanniversary models will come with automatic transmission, the balance will be manual.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

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