Hard act to follow
The latest generation of the world’s most popular roadster carries the heavy weight of expectation. As always, the proof is in the driving.
BEFORE me is the latest incarnation of the world’s best- selling, two- seater sports car.
Close to a a million people have bought an MX-5, lured by the of oldfashioned, wind-in-the-hair driving thrills.
So the weight of expectation on this little red roadster is immense.
In the metal, it looks well and truly y upp to the task.
The sensational new look is s more compactp as well as more e aerodynamicy thantha its predecessor.p
But the looks only y tell half the story.y Over the years,y Mazda’s iconic convertible has s drifted ever so slightlyg y from the originalg formula of lightweight,g g affordableaff driving g fun.
The new model is tippedpp to steer thingsg back on course. It’s 100kg g lighterg than beforebefo and suggestionsgg are the cheapestp version could sneak in under $40,000,$ 40,000, well shy y of the current pricep tag g that is creepingp g towards $50,000.$ 50,000.
But that thatmeans means nothing g if the new Mazda can’t crack it
on a twisting g mountain road.
Thankfully,y the new MX-5MX- 5 is an awesome car to drive.
After a searching drive throughg the outskirts of Barcelona, we can reportp it tot be evolutionary y in every respect,p with incrementalincreme gainsg to dynamics,y performance,p functionality, specification,specificatiop technology gy and quality.q y
Part of the secret to its
improvedp roadholding g is the liberal use of aluminium aluminiumi in
suspensionp and body y structure components,p as well as the incorporation of other compositep materialsm into the structure.
Some thingsg never change,g though.g The soft-topsoft- top p roof remains manually operated and has one centralc latch for
simplicity.p y The cabin is smallersmal than
before but more
accommodating g and has more e head room thanks to lower set seats and better design.g But the dash is hard apart
from “leather’’ cladding g to the lower section.
Inside it feels and looks
like an upgradedpg MX- 5 but now has a large,g centrally y mounted tacho while the
wheel affords more legroomg for the driver. You sit closer
to the passengerp because of the designers’designers desire to centralise
mass for optimump handling. We drove the 1.5 1.5man manual
and have to say y were scepticalp about its potential.p
The engineg is based on a Japanesep domestic market Mazda3 unit — also in the new
Mazda2, but modified. They y reworked the engine’sg camshafts and control computerp as well as installing g a better quality steel crankshaft to allowall a red-line
The exhaust features equale q lengthg headers and an engineered “note”,“note”, with a
stirring g burble on the throttle overrun.
The 2.0- litre donk is also out of a Mazda3 with similar
upgradespg as the 1.5- litre. Thoughg rated at just j 96kW, the 1.5 has plenty of
performancep and lapsp up hard driving.g
And in the rightg environment, it givesg nothing away y to more powerfulp (and( a more expensive)p cars. The classic mountain road is where this car comes into its own offering g p precise (electric)( electric) steering, a
supple but well controlled
ride, a superp rigidg chassis, strong g braking g and vibrant engineg performancep all rolled into one attractive package.p g
Speakingp g of which, we would rate the new newMX- MX-5 5 as
far and away y the best looker of them themall all particularlyp y around the front with LED headlights,headli g raised guards,g a short overhang g and sharpp creases in n the sheet metal for a look that
owes nothing g to any y other car on the road.
Any y gripes?g p It needs lumbar supportpp adjustmentj and we think the hard dash is
a stepp in the wrongg direction even thoughg they use double row red stitchingstitchin g to highlightg g the interior.
But aside from that, it’s a
car that does j justice to the MX-5MX- 5 legend.g
And there’s moremor goodg news: the price.p
There are suggestionsgg the new model could come in at as little as $ 36,000 for the
new 1.5 litre manual. That is if Mazda’s
Australian managingg g director, Martin Benders, getsg his way.y
“We“We will be pushingp g our case hard in negotiationsg with head office and are aiming g to getg the new MX-5MX- 5 in at the most competitivep pricep possiblep ,” pohe said at theth official pressp drive.
”It” It all comes down to
numbers, how many y we think we can sell, and on that score,
it’s a difficult call,” Mr Benderss
Four versions will be
available with a choice of the
1.5- litre or 2.0- litre four
cylindery enginesg and either a
six- six-speedspeedp manual
transmission developedp and
manufactured by y Mazda itsel itself
or an efficiency y optimisedp “SkyActive”y six-speedsix- speedp conventional auto.
SkyActivey technology gy is
used in both engines,g which
operatep on an exceptionallyp y
highg compressionp ratio and
withminimisedwith minimised internal
friction to use less fuel and
generate fewer emissions. While the 1.5 is good for
96kW/ 150Nm, the 2.0- litre
should achieve about
The latter is an incremental
gaing over the current 2.0-litre, which is rated at 118kW/ 188Nm. This car has been almost a
decade coming,g with the globalg financial crisis six yearsy agog delayingy g developmentp of the fourth-generationfourth- g generation model.
Thankfully,y despitep theth wait, the formula has
remained p pretty y much the same over 25 yyears: years: a frontengined,g rear-drive,rear- drive, fourcylindery rag-toprag-g top p with greatg dynamics,y 50/5050/ 50 weight distribution anda a highg fun quotient.q And Mazda executives
have giveng a commitment that there will alwaysy be room for that formula in the future
because it’s the essence of
the brand’s “p philosophy”p y of drivingg pleasure. p
You know … thet ”Zoom Zoom” thing.
The iconic roadster g goes one better and is likely to bemorebe more accessible this time around.
The formula has remained prettyy much the same over 25 y years: a frontengined, rear-ear-drive, drive, four-cylinder rag-top with great dynam dynamics, 50/50
weight distribution and a high fun quotient