Is this the future of the Mazda MX-5?

New 370hp rotary EV Iconic SP concept 'designed to adapt to the new era'

By Matt Bird / Wednesday, 25 October 2023 / Loading comments

Given Mazda is by far most famous for the rotary engine and the MX-5 roadster, it’s a surprise they haven’t been seen together more often. Perhaps that’s now about to change. The manufacturer has unveiled the Iconic SP concept at the Tokyo show, a uniquely Mazda take on how to combine the joy of a sports car with the pressures looming for car manufacturers. 

Power – all 370hp of it – comes from a two-rotor rotary EV system, whereby the rotary serves as a generator for the electric motor. However, there is also a battery onboard (but an overall kerbweight of just 1,450kg), meaning the SP should theoretically offer a lot of answers to questions regarding the future of fast cars. The range extender rotary unit should provide some mechanical intrigue (and can be powered by hydrogen, or synthetic fuel) without adding all the weight associated with plug-in hybrids. Indeed, a compact rotary low in the body aims to ‘enhance driving performance’. 

The battery can be charged conventionally, ideally with renewable energy. The aspiration is for an owner to be able to get about in a car that looks this good ‘in a virtually carbon-neutral state’. The Iconic SP can also be used as a sports car power bank, either supplying other battery-powered devices or feeding it back into the grid.  None of this is as far-fetched as it might seem, either. Vehicle-to-load charging is already pretty widespread, and Mazda already sells a range extender rotary in the shape of the MX-30 R-EV.

There’s plenty more to be encouraged by too, primarily because the concept features many of the MX-5’s best bits. Weight distribution is said to remain at 50:50, the dimensions are compact (less than 4.2m long and only 1.15m tall) and it’s even painted red. This new Viola Red hue is described by Mazda as a ‘vivid’ colour, ‘creating a sense of shade that accentuates the shape of the car.’ Won’t find us disagreeing. As with previous MX-5 coupe concepts (though this isn’t an MX-5, of course), adding a curvaceous roof to a small sports car makes it look almost glamorous in a way the roadsters don’t so much. 

Significantly then, the Iconic SP is a great-looking sports car, courageous enough to represent something different from Mazda without being so crazy so as to seem unachievable. The same goes for the interior, complete with body-coloured insert for the door like a current MX-5, driver-centric displays and – heavens above – a round, three-spoke steering wheel. This isn’t just concept car nonsense for the sake of it; the Iconic SP shows some real intent from Mazda.

Masahiro Moro, Mazda’s Representative Director, President and CEO said: “Mazda will always deliver vehicles that remind people that cars are pure joy and an indispensable part of their lives. As a car-loving company that mass-produces the inspiring mobility experience, we are committed to shaping the future with our partners sharing the same goal, as well as our fans, where everyone can proudly say, ‘we love cars.’ With such a strong will, Mazda is committed to enrich life-in-motion for those we serve.” Well said, Moro-san. An MX-5 is the answer to everything, after all. The Iconic SP would suggest that could remain true for a long while yet. 

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