NEW MX5 IS THE BEST YET
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