Mazda’s MX-5 up­date en­hances the road­ster’s peren­nial fun for­mula AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - GRANT ED­WARDS

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.


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.


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