Can you imagine a Miata with a plug? Mazda says it’s possible

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata white front angle driving

On paper, the much-loved Mazda MX-5 Miata has changed little over the course of four generations. It has always remained relatively small, undeniably light, and powered by a naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. The Japanese company has started working on the next Miata, and it’s debating whether to launch another evolution or start a revolution.

Mazda’s vehicle development team is in the process of figuring out what the next Miata should be powered by, and an electrified powertrain is one of the options it’s considering. Electrified is a broad, blanket term that refers to a panoply of technologies, but British magazine Autocar learned engineers are specifically looking at hybrid and electric powertrains.

Adding an electric component to the Miata is difficult. It’s a pure, driver-oriented roadster, and it’s one of the few cars still regularly ordered with a manual transmission. It’s interesting to note that, when it comes to the Miata, Mazda is less worried about emissions regulations and more concerned with buyer demands in key markets like the United States and Europe.

“The preference of people who enjoy driving sports cars might be changing, so we need to think about what direction society is going in. We want to look at the best powertrain to keep the vehicle lightweight, but because of the diversifying requirements and preferences, we need to explore various options. I don’t have an answer right now, but we need to make a vehicle that people can own without worrying that they are not being eco-friendly,” Mazda design boss Ikudo Maeda said.

He stressed a final decision hasn’t been made yet. If it doesn’t gain electrification, the next Miata will very likely carry on with a naturally aspirated, gasoline-burning engine. Mazda has shown it’s capable of reducing emissions and improving fuel economy without resorting to hybrid or electric systems, which add weight. For example, the SkyActiv-X engine available to Mazda3 buyers in some markets delivers turbodiesel-like fuel economy while sipping gasoline.

What’s certain is that the next Miata will again be small and light. These two attributes are among the model’s essential elements, Mazda explained. “Even if we apply electrification, we have to make sure it really helps to achieve the lightweighting of the vehicle,” affirmed Ichiro Hirose, the head of the company’s research and development department.

Mazda released the current, fourth-generation Miata (pictured) in 2015, and it updated the model by giving it more power in late 2018, so the fifth-generation car isn’t expected to arrive until 2024 at the earliest. The company can afford to take its time as it weighs the powertrain options it’s juggling, and examines each one’s pros and cons.

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