Mazda says it will have an internal combustion Miata ‘forever’

Since its debut at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989, the Miata has been Mazda’s darling. The small sports car revitalized the lightweight roadster concept for the modern era, making the most of the British efforts of years past and pairing it with legendary Japanese reliability. The shift to electrification in the auto industry has raised questions about the future of the model, but those fears may be overblown. As reported by Coach, Mazda seems to have a bright future planned for the fun convertible.

Mazda is working hard to transition its lineup to electric drive, with most of its models relying on large rear-wheel-drive architecture or the company’s smaller front-wheel-drive platform. Hybrid and all-electric models run on these platforms as Mazda continues to move with the times.

The Miata, however, doesn’t fit into either category, being a small rear-wheel-drive two-seater. Built on its own unique platform, it’s also one of the few cars these days primarily sold with a manual gearbox. According to Joachim Kunz, Head of Product Development and Engineering for Mazda in Europe, Mazda is happy to continue on a similar path in the future.

“She’s our brand icon and she’s always treated very special,” Kunz told Coach, noting the special place the Miata occupies in the Mazda lineup. Speaking about the model’s future prospects, he adds “At the moment it looks like we will have this car forever, with this size, this concept and this combustion engine. Of course, one day we will have to l ‘electrify, but we want to keep that concept pure.’

It’s a positive sign for fans that the Hiroshima company wants to stay true to the Miata’s roots. In a world where the Mitsubishi Eclipse and Ford Mustang names have been plastered on SUVs, it’s refreshing to see an automotive icon that isn’t watered down. Building the Miata on a single platform obviously entails higher development and manufacturing costs. However, it simply wouldn’t be possible to maintain the car’s playful and sporty character if it was shifted to Mazda’s traditional front-wheel-drive platform to save money.

The Miata, also known as the MX-5, generally has a longer life cycle than most mainstream cars. “Having a generation for 10 years is not a problem for us,” Kunz said. This suggests that a new Miata, likely to be called the “NE” model, could still be a few years away given that the ND Miata was released in 2016.

Going forward, it’s likely that the Miata will rely on Mazda’s advanced gasoline engine technologies like Skyactiv-X to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations in the years to come. Indeed, Mazda’s patents for hybrid drivetrains for a small rear-wheel drive application gave us our best look at the potential drive unit for the next NE model.

Either way, the news shows that Mazda not only understands what makes the Miata special, but seems willing to stick to that recipe for the foreseeable future. Obviously, with bans on the horizon for ICE-powered vehicles, one day the Miata will have to change, but for now, all is well in the House of Roadster.

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Kevin A. Perras