Is this the hybrid Miata we've been told about?
The Mazda Miata is an icon; four generations spanning more than three decades have cemented its place in the history books. The fourth generation - which has been with us since 2016 - was a return to the form of the original Miata, but with a few years under its belt is getting a bit long in the tooth, especially when the new Toyota GR86 has upped its game so substantially. Mazda has kept the ND-generation MX-5 Miata fresh, first with a mid-cycle update that lifted the rev limit and gave it more power, and for 2022 with new suspension trickery to help it handle even better.
A recent road test reminded us of the Miata's age, but demand is as strong as ever; the best trim level in the range (Club) was sold out before the middle of 2022.
The MX-5's future has been confirmed, as high-ups within the brand realize the crucial role it plays in the brand's image. But while there's been talk of a hybrid successor, Mazda has quietly begun development on an update to the current generation model.
Seen for the first time in Germany, our spies think this may be the all-new fifth-generation MX-5, which they allege will be called the NE. Those in the know will tell you the NE and NF chassis codes are already used by the Fiat 124 Spider and its Abarth variant. So does that make this test mule an 'NG' Mazda Miata? No...
While it's not uncommon to see automakers use current-gen bodies to disguise the new chassis underneath, we don't think that's the case here. Reports of widened fenders on the test mules are false, as a series of wires taped around the rear fenders are a clever trick but don't hide any new bodywork whatsoever.
However, the front end is clad in full camouflage, supporting the notion that a facelift is underway. We believe this will be the ND3, which follows the pattern of the NC-generation MX-5 that also received two major updates.
As the camo is only on the front bumper, it's likely this area will account for the bulk of the changes. The headlights equipped appear to be non-production units, so expect a new LED lighting signature. The lower LED daytime running lights are also covered over, so we expect a new design for this element. The grille appears unchanged at this stage but may be revised to adapt to the latest updates in Mazda's Kodo: Soul of Motion design language.
At the rear, the 'flared fenders' we mentioned earlier are nothing more than wires taped to the bodywork on either side, which could be for telemetry purposes, or just to throw off onlookers and spy photographers. There appears to be no change in the ND's stance, wheel offset, or anything else to suggest a widened track, however. There could be changes to the suspension geometry or the mechanical and electrical systems supporting them, but we don't expect wholesale changes in this department.
As far as powertrains go, we now know exactly what'll be under the hood of the new Miata. At least to a certain degree. As previously reported, Mazda has confirmed that the next Miata will be electrified. Whether electrification will be implemented in this ND3 remains to be seen, but if it is, expect a mild-hybrid system only for the time being. Either way, a little more power would be appreciated, but don't expect massive gains.
The spy shots also reveal the interior, which appears unchanged and without shrouding. As these are the first prototypes we've seen, it's possible that later mules will focus on the interior while this one is evaluating powertrain and chassis upgrades.
While the ND2 variant did not receive cosmetic upgrades, the ND3 will. Given Mazda's previous timeline on updates to the ND, we expect this facelift to be revealed next year and arrive in the USA as a 2024 model.