July 8, 2014 at 11:25 pm

Mazda to unveil 4th-generation MX-5 Miata

Fourth-generation roadster's launch set for September

Mazda plans to show off the next MX-5 Miata roadster in September at simultaneous events in Japan, Spain and the U.S.

The Japanese automaker reinvented the two-seat roadster class when it introduced the rear-wheel-drive convertible 25 years ago. Mazda has sold more than 900,000 internationally, making it the best-selling two-seat roadster in automotive history.

This will be the fourth-generation MX-5. It was called the Miata when the car launched in the U.S., but Mazda uses that only as a nickname now. Officially the car is the MX-5, to fit with the automakerís global alphanumeric naming convention.

Mazda has used the MX-5 to communicate the automakerís sporty design philosophy, said Karl Brauer, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book.

ďIt is the heart and soul of the entire brand,Ē Brauer said. ďThe rest of the Mazda line is supposed to have the MX-5ís sporty, fun-to-drive demeanor.Ē

The redesigned roadster will get what Mazda calls SkyActiv technology, improvements already used in the automakerís other models. This design philosophy shaves weight from the vehicle and wrings efficiency out of a standard gasoline engine and drivetrain without employing hybrid technology or continuously variable transmissions.

The new MX-5 chassis, for example, will weigh about 220 pounds less than the current version, Mazda said. This approach allows Mazda to save money in research and development and stay competitive with much bigger Japanese rivals, including Honda, Nissan and Toyota.

Mazda didnít disclose many details about the new car or provide a photo.

Although the engine is up front, Mazda pushed the weight of the powertrain closer to the middle by locating heavier components at the rear of the engine.

The engine will be behind the front axle, though automakers typically put the engine above it. Mazdaís design places the carís center of gravity lower than that of any previous generation. Like earlier models, the new MX-5 will have a 50/50 weight distribution to ensure balanced handling.

The automaker didnít disclose a price for the new MX-5. The current model starts around $24,000. Mazda made minor changes to the vehicle in 2013 but it was last redesigned in 2006, making it the oldest vehicle among Mazdaís U.S. offerings.