Back to basics
IS THERE another car sold today that rivals the Mazda MX-5’s legacy? The Porsche 911 is an icon and the Toyota GT86 might well become one. The Volkswagen Golf is a name most can identify with, but the MX-5 is special.
It has rewritten the record books again and again for sports car sales and its recipe of light weight, driver focus and simple front engine and rear drive layout just has an inherent rightness about it that hasn’t dated.
With this MK4 model though, Mazda has drawn a line in the sand and gone back to what made the MX-5 so great in the first place. The fourth generation car has gone back to basics and is all the better for it.
This rejection of a ‘more is better’ philosophy is a bit of a running theme throughout this ‘ND’ MX5. The car’s offered with either a 1.5-litre 131PS engine or a 2.0-litre 160PS unit. Mazda’s chassis engineers will steer you to the 1.5-litre powerplant as they feel it’s the purest specification for the MX-5 and also the lightest, tipping the scales at around the tonne. That makes this the lightest MX-5 since the original first generation ‘NA’ car of the Nineties. This fourth generation design conforms to five key criteria that Mazda claim define the MX-5 - rear drive with a frontmid engine layout, 50/50 weight distribution and an eagerness to change direction, plus a low kerb weight and an affordable price. All models get sixspeed manual gearboxes.
The MX-5 isn’t about straight line pace, it’s about agility and tactility. Because the engines are smaller than their predecessors, this allows them to be tucked down and back in the car.
The shape of the MX-5 hasn’t changed radically from generation to generation. This one’s no exception, but there’s a bit more aggression about the detailing, the car looking like a shrunken Jaguar F-Type roadster from the rear three-quarter. Some have thought there’s something a bit fishylooking about the front end but it’ll probably grow on you. See one in the metal and you’ll be amazed at how tiny it is.
In another clever touch, the seat cushions are supported on netting instead of the usual metal springs, allowing Mazda to reduce weight and seat the driver’s hip point closer to the road.
A lower driver then means the windscreen header rail can shift backwards, in this case by 70mm, which in turn means the hood is shorter and lighter, and also easier to package when folded. See what we mean about that virtuous circle?
Given that there’s only one bodystyle, one engine and two gearboxes, there are quite a few MX-5s to choose between. Mazda offers the car in four trim levels, SE, SE-L, SE-L Nav and Sport, with all three being offered with the 1.5-litre engine and the latter pair teamed with the 2.0-litre lump. Stick with light weight and modest power outputs and this dictates a raft of affordable costs.
The MX-5 has long been the exemplar of the affordable sports car and emissions are agreeably low, the 1.5-litre engine pegged at 139g/km and the 2.0-litre 161g/km.
Weight is the enemy.