DREAM TIME

Mazda’s MX-5 re­mains a mod­ern icon — but it’s be­ing out­gunned and out­funned by newer, much cheaper ri­vals

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - JOSHUA DOWLING joshua.dowling@news.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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

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