NEW MX5 IS THE BEST YET

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Peter Barn­well

MX-5 en­thu­si­asts can re­joice… the new ND model is bet­ter than ever and is likely to be eas­ier on your wal­let to buy.

The cur­rent NC model Mazda MX-5 has bal­looned out to a bit un­der $50 grand but the new one is likely to be around the mid $30k mark start­ing point for the 1.5-litre man­ual and is due here be­fore the end of the year.

The new gen­er­a­tion ND has been a decade com­ing with the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis six years ago slow­ing the process.

It fol­lows three ear­lier MX-5s that date back to 1989.

The for­mula has re­mained pretty much the same dur­ing those 25 years and re­mains so with the new ND. It's a front en­gine, rear drive four cylin­der rag­top with nippy dy­nam­ics, 50/50 weight dis­tri­bu­tion and a high fun quo­tient.

Aid­ing the above is the ND's lighter weight re­duced by some 100kg on the en­try level 1.5-litre man­ual when com­pared with the 2.0-litre cur­rent model.

Mazda ex­ec­u­tives gave a com­mit­ment this week to con­tinue mak­ing the MX-5 “for ever" be­cause it's the essence of the brand's “phi­los­o­phy” of driv­ing plea­sure. You know….the Zoom Zoom thing. Four ver­sions will be avail­able with a choice of 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated petrol four cylin­der en­gines and ei­ther a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion or an ef­fi­ciency op­ti­mised six-speed auto.

The 1.5 is good for 96kW/150Nm while the 2.0- litre should achieve about 125kW/200Nm.

The lat­ter is an in­cre­men­tal gain over the cur­rent NC 2.0-litre model rated at 118kW/188Nm.

Apart from the sen­sa­tional new look that's both more com­pact and aero­dy­namic than the NC model, the ND is an awe­some car to drive.

We had a good old crack at it in and around Barcelona last week and can re­port it to be evo­lu­tion­ary in ev­ery re­spect with in­cre­men­tal gains to its dy­nam­ics, per­for­mance, func­tion­al­ity, spec­i­fi­ca­tion, tech­nol­ogy and qual­ity.

They use a heap more alu­minium than be­fore with more sus­pen­sion and body struc­ture com­po­nents in the light metal as well as other com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als.

The soft top roof is man­u­ally op­er­ated and has one cen­tral latch for sim­plic­ity

The cabin is smaller than be­fore but more ac­com­mo­dat­ing and has more head room thanks to lower set seats and bet­ter de­sign.

In­side it feels and looks like an up­graded NC MX-5 but now has a large centrally mounted tacho while the wheel af­fords more legroom for the driver.

You sit closer to the pas­sen­ger be­cause of the de­sign­ers’ de­sire to cen­tralise mass for op­ti­mum han­dling.

We drove the 1.5 man­ual and have to say were scep­ti­cal about its po­ten­tial.

The en­gine is based on a Ja­panese do­mes­tic mar­ket Mazda3 unit - also in the new Mazda2 but turned around for a lin­eal lo­ca­tion.

They re­worked the camshafts and con­trol com­puter as well as in­stalling a bet­ter qual­ity steel crankshaft to al­low a redline of 7500rpm.

The ex­haust fea­tures equal length head­ers and an en­gi­neered note with a stir­ring bur­ble on the throt­tle over run.

The 2.0-litre is also out of a Mazda3 with sim­i­lar up­grades as the 1.5

Though only rated at 96kW, the 1.5litre MX-5 has plenty of per­for­mance and laps up hard driv­ing.

And in the right en­vi­ron­ment, it gives noth­ing away to more pow­er­ful (and ex­pen­sive) cars.

The clas­sic moun­tain road is where this car comes into its own of­fer­ing pre­cise steer­ing, sup­ple but con­trolled ride char­ac­ter­is­tics, a su­per rigid chas­sis, strong brak­ing and vi­brant en­gine per­for­mance rolled into one at­trac­tive pack­age.

Speak­ing of which we would rate the new MX-5 as far and away the best looker of them all par­tic­u­larly around the front that boasts LED head­lights, raised guards, a short over­hang and sharp creases in the sheet metal for a look that owes noth­ing to any other car on the road. Any gripes? Yep, needs lum­bar sup­port ad­just­ment and we think the hard dash is a step in the wrong di­rec­tion even though they use dou­ble row red stitch­ing to high­light the in­te­rior.

Ver­dict: The iconic road­ster goes one bet­ter and is likely to be more ac­ces­si­ble this time around.

Mazda's new MX-5 will of­fer two en­gine choices

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