Thursday, April 6, 2017

What's Next for the Mazda MX-5? We Talk to the Program Head to Find Out

Who isn’t a fan of the Mazda MX-5 RF? We know we are. So it was a rare treat for us to be able to meet, greet, and actually sit down with Mr. Masashi Nakayama, the Chief Designer of the MX-5 ND and currently MX-5 Program Head. Nakayama-san was in Manila to personally turn over the keys to 11 MX-5 RF units to its new owners in a special handover ceremony.

The MX-5 RF is the version of the best-selling roadster that features a retractable hardtop and fastback styling. Hence, “RF.” But what exactly inspired Mazda to design a hardtop when soft tops are most iconic for convertible sports cars?

According to Nakayama-san, it was a requirement that came with the times. 20 years ago, the first MX-5 roadster hit the streets and grew an incredible fan base. It was a fun, compact little sports car with a unique design to boot. Over the years, its following continued to grow. But as with any product, the consumer base soon plateaued, especially with the evolution of automotive standards. Security is one of them. The answer to this challenge is the RF – a more protective targa hardtop, but with a 2-way retractable mechanism that cleanly tucks away to maintain overall weight balance and keep the well-loved Miata design uncompromised. Interestingly enough, the MX-5 RF is also designed with its center of gravity located right where the driver is seated, with equal distance between the driver to the front and back wheels, keeping the driver secure and in control at all times.

We’re not surprised. As Mazda Philippines President Steven Tan quipped, “The goal is to create a more perfect car with every generation.” More perfect, but consistent with its foundations.

Following this train of thought, the MX-5 RF is already the fourth generation of the Miata line and has addressed challenges without sacrificing design. We couldn’t help but wonder – what’s next for the iconic Japanese roadster, given the demands in global automotive safety standards and the rising popularity of SUVs?

The answer from Nakayama-san was simple and engaging. The MX-5 was built on 3 principles that has been consistent through the years – first, the short wheelbase, which makes the sports car light and easy to maneuver on city streets, yet stable enough for that coveted burst of speed. Second, the MX-5 features a lightweight structure, regardless of whether it has a soft top or a hardtop installed as its roofing. And third, it maintains enough trunk space for the carry-on of two people (because, of course, a roadster is meant for a sweet ride out of town).

These three principles has allowed Mazda to deliver the expectations of Miata fans through the ages, without compromising function and practicality. And so Nakayama-san threw the question back – what do we think should be next? How else can the Roadster be improved? After all, creating a more perfect MX-5 can only be possible if he knows what the new generation of customers is looking for – and who else would know better than those who have driven one.

On that note – fear not, kids. The well-loved sexy look of the Miata is here to stay (sorry, no coupes!). To quote Nakayama-san, “If we designed an MX-5 coupe, we have to change the name!”

Words by Gen Tiu.

1 comment:

  1. The answer to every question is Miata.


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