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Mazda’s MX-5 update enhances the roadster’s perennial fun formula AT A GLANCE
Mazda’s fastidious engineers regard keeping the MX-5 up to date as a labour of love. The latest tweaks add power to the most popular versions of the charismatic twoseater, the object of affection of a loyal following for virtually three decades.
Without sheetmetal changes in the second upgrade in nine months, the only external alterations are to alloy wheel colours.
Key improvements are an extra 17kW/5Nm for the 2.0-litre engine, which is expected to account for about 95 per cent of sales. The base 1.5-litre adds a meagre 1kW/2Nm.
Prices increase across the range by $750, although Mazda says this is offset by added equipment valued at more than $1100 in base variants and $1400 in the hard-tops. The base 2.0 soft-top was $34,950 but it’s been deleted and the cheapest version is the GT at $41,960. There is a cheaper hard-top for $39,400.
Incremental but wide-ranging mechanical changes deliver more fuel and air into the combustion chamber to increase the outputs.
Throttle response has been improved and the 2.0 can now work to a red line of 7500rpm — up from 6800rpm.
Rather than delivering sledgehammer performance — as in the Ford Mustang, which dominates the segment — the updates maintain the essence of what has made the MX-5 a global sports car star.
“You don’t have to do warp speeds to have that fun factor,” says Mazda marketing chief Alastair Doak.
“That is what MX-5 has always been about. That’s why we don’t do huge, sticky tyres. That would lose the fun factor and that chuckability that has always been part of the DNA.
“The engineering committee are so passionate about it. They are always trying to improve it and their vision for the car is lasersharp. You have that clarity of purpose ... they are never satisfied.”
Transmission options are six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Manuals account for more than half of MX-5 sales — testament to its engaging driving characteristics and defying Australia’s fascination with self-shifters.
Falling into line with Mazda’s raft of latest upgrades to the CX-5, CX-9 and Mazda6, the roadster’s safety kit adds autonomous emerging braking to help avoid or lessen a collision in forward and reverse.
There are also fatigue detection and cameras that scan the roadside to update the speed limit readout in the instruments. Another vital addition is a rear camera, projecting the image on the dash-mounted colour screen.
Internally there are design changes to the detachable cup holders (which still feel flimsy).
Seat recline levers are more rigid, while the steering wheel adjusts for reach.
Six conservative colours from the “global” colour palette remain — silver, grey, black, white, blue and red. Doak says there’s no sign of any funky yellows, orange or greens.
ON THE ROAD
The update makes a good thing better. The Mazda is sharper and more responsive from the get-go. Turning with precision and answering the throttle with linear responses, the diminutive drop-top relishes changes in direction as it bites the bitumen with rearwheel drive confidence.
Among its many attributes, the MX-5 can handle the mundane and the ragged edge — carving through the Gold Coast hinterland with the top down, it morphs between grand tourer and race car. The changes aren’t monumental but come as useful foils to suspension tweaks to improve ride earlier this year.
Engineers have remedied the chinks. The MX-5 is quicker under acceleration, yet remains a weapon on twisty terrain. It balances comfort and performance without breaking the budget.