Mazda’s Already-Light Roadster Just Dropped a Weight Class in Japan
This would sell out in America.
I believe it was Colin Chapman who once said, “simplify and lighten stuff. You know, less weight on the things.” Joking aside with my extreme butchering of that oft-recited Chapman quote, his point was that the key to performance driving bliss is to simplify and lose weight. A light car will respond, accelerate, and handle way better than a heavy car.
Heavy platforms are fun too, as long as they have the power to match, but they don’t beat ultra-light fare that makes the most out of less horsepower, less of a contact patch, etc. This love of lightness is unfortunately a pretty foreign concept among automakers these days, as most companies do not find low-selling small sports cars to be priorities. On the other hand, there’s Mazda with its anti-heavy-car hijinks.
The current ND-generation soft-top Miata on sale in the U.S.A. weighs in at 2,341 pounds with a manual transmission and 2,403 pounds with an automatic, which is immensely light compared to every other enthusiast car on the market, aside from track-specific models like the BAC Mono. If you think that’s light, that’s not even the lightest Miata variant the Hiroshima brand offers.
As reported by Ben Hsu over at Japanese Nostalgic Car and seen on the Japanese website, Mazda recently unveiled the 990S, a trim of the ND that weighs in at a paltry 2,180 pounds from the factory. 2,180! That’s frankly incredible, especially considering how much safety equipment, tech, comfort amenities, and advanced driver assistance aids have to be thrown into new cars these days.
This model doesn’t have all of that, though. The 990S has a basic radio setup that lacks Mazda Connect and GPS. This is certainly music to a lot of peoples’ ears. Weight’s been shed elsewhere in sound insulation, the wheels, and brake rotors. The wheels are forged Rays (nice) that weigh 1.76 pounds lighter than the factory wheels, and the rotors are made of aluminum. Aluminum rotors don’t exactly sound ideal due to its metallurgy not standing up to heat as well as steel can, but if Mazda’s done its homework, I imagine it’s fine.
Under the hood, Mazda went with its naturally aspirated 1.5-liter 16-valve inline-four. We don’t get this one in the USA, but its power output is rated at 130 horsepower, which at first sounds miniscule for a modern sports car, but remember, this thing only weighs slightly more than the original 1.6-liter-equipped NA Miata that made only 114 horsepower. (Side note: Why couldn’t the US-market Mazda 2’s 1.5-liter engine make 130 horsepower, instead of an actually paltry 100.)
The 990S also features a neat form of traction control dubbed “Vehicle Attitude Stabilization Control.” According to Hsu at Japanese Nostalgic Car, “when lateral forces exceed 0.3 g, the car drags the inside rear brake a little, which Saito (Shigeki Saito, head of the 990S’ development at Mazda) says will reduce the wheel’s tendency to lift. The effect, some drivers say, is similar to that of an electronically controlled suspension. For those who don’t want it, the system deactivates when you turn off stability control.”
The bad news is that it will not be sold in the USA, as it is for the Japanese market only. That’s kind of a bummer, as all of this is music to my ears, and I’m sure many others who live by that crucial Chapman quote. At least the ND we have is still pretty darn light, and features a healthy 180 horsepower to haul it’s thicc 2,341 pounds around.
More great stories on Car Bibles
- Car Bibles made its first full video! Check out this technical comparison of the Lexus IS F and the new Lexus IS 500.
- Chris Rosales got into a crash in his VW Golf GTI, and it rattled his mental health more than expected.
- We compared a 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 to an old Land Rover Discovery 1 to see how the two stacked up against each other.
- Years of car culture have vanished from public view after Jalopnik’s overloads hid thousands of images.
- The drag strip is made for burning rubber and inspiring young enthusiasts.