Latest update: 13 July, 2000
'99?!? That's what we hear from our sources. The release will still come in '98, but it will be called a '99 model. Does that mean there won't be a '98 Miata? We don't think so.
Probably the most common question that passes through Miata.net is "What does the new Miata hold in store?" Unfortunately, Mazda doesn't share much information with us (or anyone else, for that matter.) They're keeping a very tight lid on the Miata redesign. But still, there are a few things we're fairly certain of as well as a few other things that we and others speculate about.
Things we're fairly certain of
Mark Wold took part in a marketing survey which featured roadsters. There in the group was the new Miata! Most of Mark's findings coincide with the other things we've heard. Here's Mark's report:
OK. Let me first say that what I was taking part in was definitely a market research program for determining marketing styles. For comparison values, they had us go over 6 vehicles: BMW Z3, Jeep Wrangler, Ford Mustang Convertible, VW Cabrio, Mitsubishi Eclipse Convertible, and a 1999 Miata. We were not asked one bit about how we liked or disliked the actual cars and comparisons only existed if it was brought up during an answer. For all they were asking, they could have just as easily given us an original style Miata. The jest of their questions were targeted at finding out what "IT" is that draws us to a Miata. If asked why we prefer to go out and drive a Miata and answered "I just love it!", they followed with "What is IT?". My overall impression was that they have the 1999 Miata pretty much set in stone, but without the proper marketing, they won't be able to regain some of the market that has been lost to other convertibles that have come out since the Miata was first introduced.
Please remember that cameras and recording devices were not allowed and that everything that I report here is from memory. I spent a lot of time going over as much as I could, making mental notes about what I saw. We were not able to test drive the car or any of the other cars, that were there for comparison, as this was market research to help them figure out how to sell the car, not for making refinements or changes in its functionality. All that said here it is!
Starting from the front, the most obvious change is the recessed headlight assemblies residing in the space of the current turn signal assemblies and up from there. No more barn doors. The assemblies also contain the amber parking/turn signal lights with these being closer to the center and the headlights on the outward side. Very similar to an MX-3. Because of these, the hood is changed to match up with them giving a longer appearance. The small hump in the center of the hood is still there. The new Mazda logo was located right were the existing logo is. Crouching down and looking from the front, a visible hump appears at the outsides of the front bumper. There is less front tire showing. Going around to the side, that flaring out from the bump is continued behind the front tire, sloping up slightly along the rocker panel and slowly diminishing where it disappears near the trailing edge of the door. Another little flare out starts up in front of the rear tire along the rocker panel. As for the door itself, just like the pictures, it has the curved trailing edge as seen in the speedster. The door opening mechanism is a pull up handle instead of pull out. The mirrors have been changed and give me the impression of a wing-like approach instead of a pod. Does that make sense? Going to the rear of the car the most notable change is the little hump across the deck lid, ala RX-7. The center brake lamp is higher as it resides in the hump portion and one of the new Mazda logo sits right below it. The radio antenna is positioned on the left side rear quarter panel, behind the gas filler. The plastic portions of the rear fascia which are to the sides of the license plate mounting are now molded into the rear bumper. The seam line above the bumper does not start until the outside of the tail lights. Speaking of the tail lights, they look to be about the same shape but the amber portion is now in the center and surrounded by red lenses. The battery was disconnected so I could not light them up for a look see.
Opening the engine bay shows the 1.8 but nothing else is much different. But without the hardware for the barn doors, there looks to be a little more room up front. Going around behind and opening the trunk provides a few surprises. The lower portion of the trunk has been lowered a little more so that the spare tire, jack, and jack crank can fit down in there. Similar to a lot of cars on the market, there is fiber board platform over the tire/jack and the topside of it is covered in the felt like material the rest of the trunk is done in. The space where the jack used to be is still empty underneath the fold up platform but there are some small plastic drop in cubby holes built in to the platform. On the right side, a well has been built that is big enough to hold the gel cell battery, with another fold up platform over it. I think it would be very hard to fit anything other than the gel cell in there. The space where the old spare tire used to be is still there but there is a fiber board panel in place. So looking in the trunk, it would appear as though there is a bigger, squarer storage space with one level floor across the entire trunk space.
Moving to the interior, the major change is the glass rear window. They had a boot over the soft top and I didn't bother raising the top to see how it fitted. I just peeked under the boot to see if the window was glass or not. The cockpit brace has changed in that there is a plastic cover which extends down to the rear shelf. You could put something on the shelf and not fear that it would come forward in a hard stop. This plastic piece also has a portion which snaps up vertical and looks to me to be a factory wind-blocker. The top of this piece is right below the top of the seats and goes all the way across the cockpit brace. The seats appear to be the standard black cloth. The passenger side is identical to the driver side without a pocket in the back. The center console no longer hinges up to the side but has the hinge in the back. The lid is lifted up and back. Inside you find the standard levers to open the trunk and the gas filler. Towards the front of the compartment is an integrated cup holder. The lid must be open for this to hold a cup or can. The small electric window rocker switches have been replaced by much larger ones which are more towards the front of the car since the new console compartment is slightly larger. In front of the rocker switches is a built in ash tray with cover, built into the plastic with removable metal portion for emptying. The ash tray is about 1.5"X2.5". The center of the dash still has the two eyeball vents but they appear to be higher up. High enough that the top of the dash has two humps molded in over the vents. The flasher button remains between them. Below that is the radio cluster. Then below that is climate control which if I remember correctly, has turn knobs instead of slider controls. Below the climate control is a small panel with a key switch. It has on and off positions and controls the passenger side airbag, with an LED that lights up when you have it turned off! The glove box looks to be the same and on the drivers side a few small changes. The electric mirror control has a different style switch cluster. The cruise control switch is now an always on/always off rocker switch instead of the current push button momentary on/off. The instrument cluster remains about the same with fuel, water temperature, oil pressure( fake ), tachometer, and speedometer in the same place. I don't recall seeing an odometer or tripometer but there is a small LCD display in the center at the bottom. The writing on the gauge faces is noticeably different with an Arial type font and a bit of a slant.
The inside door panels have been changed with the armrest molded into the plastic. A small plastic bin is also molded in along the bottom. I don't remember seeing the normal speakers but I do remember seeing small speakers bigger than a tweeter size molded into the plastic at about the vent level of the dash.
My overall impression is that if I were out to buy another car, I would not discount this model due to any of the changes. The changes are for the most part subtle. Not necessarily good nor bad. I for one don't mind having the current barn doors but think the new lights look very appealing. As with the current cars, each new/different feature will have with it a following of lovers and haters.
The spy shot shown in Autoweek's September 3, 1997 issue is most likely the real thing! (Tom Matano, speaking at Gold Rush '97, confirmed that the Autoweek shot is "95% accurate.") This photo marks the end of a year of speculation which has brought all sorts of fun possibilities to the Miata world. While still unofficial, we think its a good bet that Autoweek snagged it again. We're not reproducing it here due to copyright issues, but the photo is probably closest to the yellow drawing below.
This photo generated quite an uproar when it came out. A US Mazda dealer had invited several members of a local Miata club to the dealership to watch a Mazda promotional video which contained this shot (along with a few others) of the '98. One of those folks happened to have a video camera and was allowed to tape the show! We're pretty sure this is a photo of one of the early '98 concept models - not necessarily the real thing. But we don't know for sure. Originally we decided not to publish this photo because it got back to us that Mazda was "hopping mad" about it, (can something be read into that?), but after it was published in just about every auto magazine around the world, we figured we might as well do it, too.
On the right are two images that were picked up by the UK MX-5 site. They definitely look like photos. Could they be the real thing? We don't think so. (Photos copyrighted by Brenda Priddy and Company / Automedia)
There have been several attempts at speculation on the new design. This photoshop job was an early attempt at what the car could look like. It is clear that the image was morphed from a photo of the Speedster and another photo of a Montego Blue M Edition.
The image below was an artist's drawing which appeared in a German magazine (ADAC Motorwelt. Club) in February.
Tom Smolenski wrote an article sharing his thoughts about Responsible Change.
Meanwhile, Miata enthusiasts around the world are holding their breath, waiting to see whether they'll keep their "old" design, or upgrade to the new state of the art. Prospective owners are having a difficult time deciding whether to purchase a new Miata now or to wait until the new model arrives.
These two drawings were sent to us from Japan with the words "this is it". Evidently they were featured in an issue of the Roadster Club magazine.
Is it? Who knows - but given what we've seen up to now, its as likely a possibility as there is!
The following translation of the Japanese characters on the illustrations was done by Chiomi Sawada (email@example.com):
The scanned pages truncated some of the text so that I could not translated in full. Here's my two Yen!
Our prediction for the rumored new model supposed to debut at the Fall Tokyo Motor Show"
General silhouette easily suggests as the Miata Roadster at a glance. Retractable head lights would be replaced with fixed sets. Air intake underneath the front bumper will remain the same as current model. Engine choice would be available in both 1,600 and 1,800!? Door's open/close line is supposed to be changed a little. Triangle front pillar windows will remain due to required structure strength. Tire is 15 inch and tire tread will be widen little due to suspension geometry change. Tail light design succeeds roadster's identity. High mount stop lights are naturally blend in to the body line. Rear windscreen will be upgraded to the glass window. Trunk space will be expanded to now accommodate two golf bags. Floor and suspension change would be limited to refining the current model.
Front brake: Ventilated disk. Rear brake: Solid disk.
Suspension: Double Wishbone. Shock: <unreadable>.
Front/rear stabilizer: Torsion bar.
Front wheel: 14 X ?JJ Rear wheel: 15 X6JJ
Tire size: <unreadable>
What options are open? Well, if you've already got a Miata, there's certainly no rush to make a decision. But if you're thinking about one, you have a couple of options. You can wait until the debut, which is going to be at the Tokyo Auto Show this year (October). The North American debut will be around the beginning of '98.
Another option is to enter into a 1 year lease. Mazda has made these attractively priced, low entry cost leases (something like $199/month, $1000 down) available for just that reason - a short term commitment.
Or you can find a pre-owned Miata, which will get you into the car of your dreams at a much lower entry cost than a new one would be.
Whatever you decide, we're fairly certain you'll have a permanent grin on your face once you get behind the wheel!