Mazda’s MX-5 remains a modern icon — but it’s being outgunned and outfunned by newer, much cheaper rivals
MAZDA’S MX-5 is the world’s best-selling two-seater sportscar, with almost a million delivered since 1989. In Australia in the past decade, the MX-5 has accounted for more than half of all sportscar sales. In the face of strong competition this year, Mazda has given it a once-over to keep it fresh until an all-new model arrives in 2014, also spawning an Alfa Romeo offshoot.
Some say, ‘‘ if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’’— Mazda counters with ‘‘ we turned the car inside out to save 804g’’. That’s the net result of the changes: trimming 700g from the newly designed front bumper (3.5kg to 2.8kg, if you’re curious) and a further 104g from the wiring loom. The latter came from removing 10m of the 50m of wire in the car. They used to fit 50m of wire in the car?
The engineers also toyed with the suspension and steering a little and fiddled with the engine computer to deliver more oomph from lower revs, although peak power is unchanged.
For all that, though, the car still doesn’t have a USB input. It makes do with a headphone socket and a 12V power point. That’s where Mazda’s priorities lie: driver enjoyment of the road ahead, not what’s happening inside the car.
Prices have risen by $80 to $47,280 for the base model and $49,885 for the luxury version with Recaro seats and BBS wheels. Many pundits were expecting a big price cut, if not a butchering, given the competition in this class starts as low as $23,990 (Hyundai Veloster) and $29,990 (Toyota 86). True, they’re not convertibles but they are fun, small sports-cars.
So value is a relative term. Compared to a Porsche Boxster orBMWZ4, the MX-5 is great value. But compared to what everyone else is buying right now, it’s still way too steep.
Beyond the measures beneath the skin, as in the wiring, bumper and remapping the engine computer, Mazda has also installed a new brake booster, which improves the feel of the brakes.
The wheels are now charcoal in colour, the former chrome highlights in the interior are now black and the curvy bit of plastic above the speedometer is slightly lower so as not to block the view of short drivers.
The curve in the front bumper is new and grille mouth is larger. You know what, though? It’s an elegant, timeless shape. I’mglad they didn’t mess with it.
You get a folding hardtop roof these days, which is far better than a fabric top. Mazda Australia has ditched the cheaper soft-top for now.
Only four airbags are fitted (two frontal airbags and one outboard of each seat) because there isn’t room for overhead curtain airbags. Stability control is standard but, as ever, good road-holding should enable drivers to avoid a crash in the first place.
The MX-5’s 2.0-litre engine outputs are unchanged (118kW/ 188Nm) but computer wizardry has made genuine improvements to power delivery by increasing the amount of oomph at low revs.
The MX-5 has a little less grunt than the Toyota 86— the darling sportster of the moment— yet it revs cleaner, sounds smoother and has a more even power delivery across the rev range.
The suspension jiggles less than I remember from earlier MX-5s and the stability control no longer kicks in in case you do something wrong— it now only kicks in if you do something wrong.
Brakes? Check. Bad points? The clutch pedal is too crowded, there’s not enough space around the floor. And I wish the driver’s side mirror was convex to enhance the over-shoulder view.
This update is exactly the boost
the MX-5 needed to remain relevant in response to newer competition. But Mazda must do something about the price. At $50K, tell ’ em they’re dreaming.
Timeless: Mazda has made only minor tweaks to the MX-5’s styling
Tight: There’s limited space in the footwell and the clutch pedal in particular is crowded