More stories related to Geneva Motor Show The new look may not stray too far from the familiar, but Mazda Motor Corp. is convinced the drive will distance the all-new third-generation MX-5 Miata from its predecessors.

This reincarnation of the cult roadster, being unveiled next week at the Geneva auto show, is slighter bigger, not much heavier and engineered to be peppier and more dynamic on the road when it goes on sale globally in the second half of the year.

The goals of the new Miata are rooted in Japanese tradition. Program manager Takao Kijima sought to capture a certain spirit – that of the oneness of a horse and its rider or Jinba Ittai – in sheet metal.

It was done in a context of continuing with the car’s original front-midship, rear-drive configuration with the engine positioned ahead of the driver but behind the front axle for 50:50 weight distribution.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The classic “Coke bottle” curves are gone. The nose and tail still are smoothly tapered, but the surfaces now wrap between the wheels without narrowing. This makes for a wider cockpit, to comfortably seat two adults and make room for side airbags.

The 1.6-in. (4.0-cm) wider wheel track is highlighted by more pronounced fender arches.

The new unibody increases flexibility and torsional rigidity by 22% and 47%, respectively. Moving the engine back 5.3 ins. (13.5 cm) better balances the weight and reduces yaw. The new Miata also has a double-wishbone front suspension and newly developed multi-link rear suspension for a wheelbase that increases by 2.6 ins. (6.5 cm).

There are two new MZR family engines: a 2L for all markets and a 1.8L for Europe. Both have inline 4-cyls. with chain-driven double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, variable intake valve timing and electronically controlled port fuel injection.

Engineers say they pursued a lighter flywheel, quick response, electric throttle and stiff driveshaft for the responsive drive sought.

All markets will get the new 6-speed manual transmission. Depending on the market, the roadster also comes with a 5-speed manual and advanced 6-speed automatic that can be manually controlled with the shift lever or by steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Shifting benefits from a very short stroke, Mazda says.

Curb weight increases by only about 22 lbs. (10 kg).

The soft top is a Z-fold design, and a new detachable hardtop will be available in some markets. A spokesman confirms North America gets the fastback-look hardtop, probably from launch.

The original MX-5 Miata bowed Feb. 9, 1989, at the Chicago Auto Show. It has provided instant fun on wheels for about 700,000 buyers globally, with only one major update in 16 model years. Mazda sold 9,356 Miatas in the U.S. in 2004, down from 10,920 units the previous year.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com