Here’s the thing,
Today, Mazda unveiled its new MX-5, aka the Miata. For those of you who frequent Jalopnik, you probably just told yourself ‘the answer is always Miata’. But is it always?
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a light, simple sports car. I myself, having a Honda-heavy background, love the S2000. But even it wasn’t that light. In fact, it weighed as much as a modern Civic Si. The Si is one of the lighter sport compacts on the market, but is still no feather-weight sportster by any means. No, what made the S2000 such a pleasure of a car was that it offered a good amount of power for its package, and a distinct character along with it.
The Miata can no longer get along on the simple virtues of being light and Rear-Wheel Drive. Mainly due to the fact that there are now alternatives in that very market. The Toyobaru twins spring to mind, and the Genesis Coupe is not such a far stretch up. More importantly, Front-Wheel and All-Wheel Drive cars are becoming more dynamic with every passing generation. For many years, cars like the GTI and WRX have been narrowing that gap more and more. And more importantly, the formerly unruly beasts known as pony cars are showing signs of real dynamic engineering.
So what does that mean for the MX-5? What does the featherweight champ need in order to be competitive in the modern market? Well, in a word, power. I’m not talking about a face-melting amount. There is simply no need for a 350hp car that weighs 2200 lbs if it’s not going to be a track-day special. But there’s also no reason that any modern car that calls itself a sports car should have any less than 200 ponies in its stable. And that just may be the perfect jumping-off point. More importantly, Mazda can effectively and reliably hit that mark with engines they already have. A Forced Induction version of the 2.0 or tuned-up 2.5 Skyactiv engines would have no problem generating 200hp or more.
And what’s the point of all of this? Well, it’s to help evolve a motoring icon so that it can stay relevant. While many new versions are sold every day to dentist or middle management types looking for some extra wind in their remaining hair, Mazda needs to do something different to keep the loyalists engaged with the new generation. Otherwise, they’ve proven they have no problem taking an original from 20 years ago and turbocharging it themselves.
And that, that’s the thing.