What makes the Mazda ND MX-5's development story special

Subtract and add lightness: how Mazda undid two generations of weight gain

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Such is the rate of progress and common buyer’s perpetually increasing appetite for tech and features, it’s an often unavoidable fact of life that succeeding new car models invariably take on more weight and size with each generation.

That makes this current ND-generation of Mazda MX-5 a bit special. In the intervening time between the breakout NA roadster and previous-gen NC, the MX-5’s kerb weight had ballooned by 20 per cent.

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For the ND-generation of 2015, stringent benchmarks and targets were set for body dimensions and weight, with Program Manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto delivering a mission statement that said “innovate in order to preserve”.

In practice, Yamamoto’s decree meant the production-ready ND MX-5 had to emerge in comparable in size and weight to the breakout NA MX-5 of 1989.

Motor Events Mazda MX 5 Old Vs New Main

Park the two next to each other, and the results of Mazda’s efforts are remarkable. The modern roadster measures 33mm shorter and just 1mm taller than the original cult icon, although boasts a wider footprint with 59mm of extra width and a 44mm longer wheelbase.

A larger use of aluminium and high-tensile steel saves 20kg from the chassis, 14kg from the differential and gearbox, and a further 12kg from the suspension in comparison to the preceding NC Hardtop. All said and done, the smaller and lighter 1.5-litre ND MX-5 shaves a whopping 158kg off the old NC-generation car.

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Mild hybrid rumours surround the next-gen NE MX-5 with the preservation of its lightweight stature of utmost importance, according to Mazda design boss Ikuo Maeda.

The next-gen vehicle is expected in 2024 and promises a monumental step-change with the inclusion of hybrid assistance. It remains to be seen whether it can continue to shoulder the heritage of Mazda’s lightweight icon.

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