The Mazda Miata just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and enthusiasts have been chomping at the bit for any and all news regarding the upcoming fourth-gen model. Now, our colleagues at Motor Trend have captured a prototype for the next MX-5 testing in the foothills of Southern California.
The car was seen driving with a caravan of other Miatas, including a current-generation model and a very early first-gen NA-chassis Mazda Miata (said to be VIN #15). Mazda development engineer and former Sport Compact Car engineering editor Dave Coleman was piloting the prototype, with engineers from Japan driving the other two cars. When approached by our photographers, Coleman offered no info on the car. But then again, we wouldn't expect him to give us all the deets this far from the car's debut, which is expected to happen at next year's Chicago auto show.
Even without knowing Mazda's secret plans, we can still learn plenty from these spy shots. The test mule is dressed in the current-gen car's sheet metal, but appears longer -- especially in the hood and nose. This gives the car a profile reminiscent of a Honda S2000. The current Mazda Miata's body panels appear to have been cut to fit the prototype, which could explain the strange fitment of the fenders. Our shooter, photo intern Robin Trajano, says the hood appeared to sit lower than the front fenders. It also looks like the side mirrors may have been repositioned on the door. Like the last prototype we spotted testing on the 'Ring, this tester features a vinyl top that covers more of the decklid and rear fenders compared to the outgoing Miata.
At the New York auto show, Mazda showed off the next-gen Miata's chassis, which is said to be stronger yet also 14 percent lighter. It was there that we got confirmation of the model's switch to four-lug wheels, which we had seen in previous spy shots. This prototype also sports four lug nuts per wheel instead of the current car's five. (The first two generations of the Mazda Miata had four-lug wheel hubs.)
But the most revealing part of this encounter could be where the prototype was caught. The next-gen Mazda Miata test mule was seen on Glendora Mountain Road (GMR), one of SoCal's best driving roads and a darn good one for vehicle development. Also telling is the fact that Mazda brought along both the first- and last-generation models, which could mean the Miata will indeed return to its pure, minimalist roots.
We'll need to wait a bit longer for more details on the upcoming Skyactiv-powered fourth-gen Mazda Miata, but until then enjoy these spy shots.
Previous spy shots courtesy of CarPix