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Mazda Iconic SP may point to new MX-5

Hybrid-electric powered compact sportster may be our first look at the next-generation MX-5

25 Oct 2023

MAZDA may have hinted at a replacement for the MX-5 sports car with something called the Mazda Iconic SP, a further development of the earlier Vision Study, that surfaced at Japan Mobility Show (JMS) aka Tokyo Motor Show this week.


Speculation has been rife for some time about a replacement for the iconic ND-series MX-5 sports car that is coming up to nine years old.


Like the Vision Study, the Iconic SP is rendered as a compact sports coupe, something a version of the MX-5 more or less morphed into in the RF (Retractable Fastback) model. No indication of the existence of a soft top convertible Iconic SP was given.


With new energy vehicles front and centre, the writing is on the wall for the small, ICE powered MX-5 sports car and the Iconic SP concept could be the direction the Hiroshima-based manufacturer is heading.


The fact it chose the Japan Mobility Show to unveil the new concept model speaks volumes about what may unfold.


It was the first real inkling of such a car, as opposed to a digital study, from Mazda that has been producing the MX-5 since 1989 using essentially the same formula selling more than a million units along the way.


Mazda says the Iconic SP is “a new type of compact sports car concept, designed to adapt to the new era and respond to the emotions of customers who love cars and desire a car that simply embodies the joy of driving” – or in Mazda-speak, “Jinba Ittai” which equates to “horse and rider as one.”


In creating the “framework” that forms the basis of the concept, Mazda designers aimed to achieve proportions with a low centre of gravity that would give the “impression” of excellent driving performance. Mounting the lightweight and compact rotary engine in the centre of the car has resulted in a low bonnet line.


In a head nod to past glories, and no doubt creating immense excitement with Mazda rotary tragics, is the Iconic SP’s powertrain that features Mazda’s “unique” two-rotor rotary EV system which remains compact and thus offers a high degree of layout flexibility, enabling the concept model to have an overall low centre of gravity to enhance driving performance.


The rotary based powertrain has been known of for a few years, but the exact configuration was a mystery. Was it a parallel hybrid like a Toyota Corolla, RAV, Camry and many others, was it similar to the new generation of hybrid powered Mazda SUVs or was it in sync with Nissan’s e-Power system where the combustion engine operates simply as a power generator for the electric drive motor(s)?


In the Iconic SP, batteries are charged by a regenerative energy source and the two-rotor rotary engine is also used for power generation consuming carbon-neutral fuel - meaning it is similar to the Nissan e-Power set-up with a rotary engine electricity generator. So, no direct connection between the road and the rotary engine…


Mazda says the rotary EV system is highly scalable and can burn various fuels such as hydrogen to generate carbon neutral electricity.


The high output generated by the two-rotor rotary EV system combined with the concept’s proportions, the lower centre of gravity and the weight distribution of around 50:50 are said to achieve excellent driving performance. As is the case with many EVs, the Iconic SP is designed to function in a V2L capacity.


Mazda invented a new red colour for the concept called Viola Red that was created out of numerous preceding hues including the stunning Soul Red on current models.


At the JMS, Mazda’s representative director, president and CEO, Masahiro Moro, made the following comment: “Mazda will always deliver vehicles that remind people that cars are pure joy and an indispensable part of their lives”.


“As a car-loving company that mass-produces the inspiring mobility experience, we are committed to shaping the future with our partners sharing the same goal, as well as our fans, where everyone can proudly say, ‘we love cars’,” he added.


“With such a strong will, Mazda is committed to enrich life-in-motion for those we serve. Mazda will continue to pursue the Joy of Driving under its core value, “Human Centric”, and aim to deliver Joy of Living by creating moving experiences in customers’ daily lives.”


For comparison, the Mazda Iconic SP measures 4180mm long x 1850mm wide x 1150mm high and rolls on a wheelbase of 2590mm. The MX-5 ND is 3915mm long x 1730mm wide x 1235mm high on a wheelbase of 2310mm.


The ND weighs from 1058kg while the Iconic SP comes in at 1450kg. Maximum power for the MX-5 ND is 135kW while the Iconic calls up some 272kW.

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