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Redefining a Legend: How Mazda Designed the Fourth-Generation MX-5 Miata – Part 4

Every car comes from somewhere. This is the fourth and final part covering how the design of the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata came to be.

Part IV: Epilogue and a Beginning

The fourth-generation MX-5 made it worldwide debut in front of 1,500 MX-5 owners at Miatas at Mazda Raceway on September 2014 and was streamed to millions around the world. The 2016 MX-5 would go on to be named the World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year at the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), the first car ever to receive both honors in the same year. On the stage, Mazda North American Operations President and CEO Masahiro Moro, Global Design Chief Ikuo Maeda and Program Manager and longtime MX-5 champion Nobuhiro Yamamoto, as well as the global Mazda employees.

Their acceptance of the awards capped the five-year journey that would be the creation of the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 roadster, but it also signaled what was to come. Just the night before NYIAS, Mazda introduced its 2017 MX-5 RF retractable fastback roadster.

What the 2016 MX-5 did, perhaps better than any Mazda that had come before it, was lay a groundwork of objectives that had to be met without compromise. The car had to be lighter, smaller, more efficient and with a design that shared little between it and other Mazda vehicles. But, more than any of that, it was a car that mandated each region and each discipline to work with one another in harmony. Think of it like Mazda’s “Jinba Ittai”—horse and rider as one—sense of unity between the car and its driver. If each discipline didn’t work together, the fourth-generation MX-5 might not have delivered the design and pure driving thrills in a way that has won nearly universal praise the world over.

The fourth-generation MX-5 is driven by lore as much as by the excitement and energy brought by every one of its creators. Yamamoto was destined to be its program manager, coming from a long line of Mazda designers who worked on legendary cars like the MX-5 and FD RX-7 from the early 1990s. Nakayama had been working on this car for the better part of two decades and today drives a pristine first-generation model. Maeda is the father of the KODO—Soul of Motion design language.

But along with them are a long list of Mazda designers from Japan, Europe, the U.S. and beyond who shaped every inch of the fourth-generation MX-5. Every inch of it was thought out and contemplated some more. And now, its fourth-generation stands alongside its three predecessors as a true torchbearer for the Mazda brand. And, it stands as one of the best sports cars in the world.

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