By Steve Laser
Mazda knows how to throw a party. On the day before Halloween, Motor Press Guild members gathered at Mazda R&D in Irvine, Calif., for a party filled with some extra-special treats for car journalists and their guests.
Dubbed the ’80s “MX-ER” (short for Mixer), we were asked to wear our favorite ’80s fashions or a treasured ’80s band t-shirt. A DJ was on hand to spin tunes from that era. The theme segued with the 25th Anniversary of the original MX-5 Miata, introduced in 1989.
The best treat, of course, was an opportunity to get a closer look at the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5. Also on hand were pristine examples of the first three generations, along with some special racing models and design spin-offs.
Yet the biggest thrill of the evening was a design walk-around presentation of the 2016 MX-5 by Derek Jenkins, Mazda’s Director of Design. Jenkins was introduced by MPG President, Joni Gray, who thanked Mazda for hosting the group.
Jenkins said that the first generation MX-5 was introduced the same year that he was accepted to the Art Center College of Design to “…at least try to become a car designer.” He read stories in car magazines about Tom Matano, Bob Hall and Mazda and the story behind the first Miata’s design.
He said that toady’s team creating the fourth-generation car had to stay true to the concept of the original, yet they also had to design a contemporary car. They couldn’t disappoint the traditional enthusiast, but they also had to bring new customers to the car.
If the design was too radical, he said, the tradition, or the DNA of the car would be lost. Yet if they did something too retro or old-fashioned, it would likely fail to fascinate new customers and threaten the long-term existence of the car.
In his walkaround, Jenkins covered the key areas of the new design:
- The silhouette is an improvement on the classic roadster, with the cabin pulled a little farther back while the driver sits lower in the car.
- Front styling gains an “attitude adjustment” making it more contemporary – it’s lower and more confident than the previous generations.
- Above all else, the new MX-5 has more road presence, it looks more “planted” to the road.
- The side view is clean with subtle sculpting to enhance the dynamic proportions and add strength to the body.
- The rear fenders are more pronounced, highlighting the fact that it’s rear-wheel drive. The tapered rear end is a departure from previous generations to help it stand out on the road.
- His team spoke to owners and enthusiasts who said they wanted a more sophisticated interior, yet not too complicated. Nicer materials and trim make the new MX-5 feel like a higher value.
Jenkins stressed that the new MX-5’s design is a global effort, and that’s where the “magic happened, bringing the best ideas together on this car.” He closed by saying the new MX-5 represents “Mazda in the best possible way” – building cars that are fun to drive.
While we’ll have to wait for another opportunity to experience “The Joy of Driving” the all-new MX-5, we saw nothing but smiles on the crowd of automotive journalists, analysts, PR wags and guests who shared the spirit of the season.
Story, photos and video ©2014 CarNichiWa