The mak­ing of the mk4?

Hot news from Mazda – it has re­vised the mk4 range and given the 2.0-litre a power hike from 158bhp to 181bhp. The speed hun­gry should form an orderly queue, writes Brett Fraser. Pho­tos: Do­minic Fraser/mazda UK

Total MX-5 - - CONTENTS -

Mazda has upped the power of the mk4 2.0-litre from 158bhp to 181bhp – but how does ex­tra grunt af­fect the car’s char­ac­ter?

The danc­ing, tum­bling North­ern Ire­land road is won­der­fully free of traf­fic. It’s a bit nar­row and a bit bumpy, but there’s a good line of sight through some of the faster cor­ners and the 2.0-litre mk4 MX-5 feels very much at home here. The model we’re in, the new range-top­ping GT Sport Nav+, is fit­ted as stan­dard with Bil­stein dampers, and though this means the sus­pen­sion is slightly stiffer – for which you should read sportier – than the stan­dard setup, the road’s lumps and dips aren’t trou­bling us much, while the mk4’s nar­row body grants a free­dom you don’t get in larger cars to pick a good po­si­tion on the Tar­mac within the con­fines of your side of the road.

Hard on the brakes now be­cause there’s a tight bend ahead, wish­ing they had a tad more ini­tial bite and that the ped­als were eas­ier to heel and toe with, but we ar­rive at the apex at a sen­si­ble speed so they’re clearly do­ing their job okay.we’ve al­ready snicked that stubby lit­tle gear­lever for­ward into its third gear slot and we’re ready to floor the ac­cel­er­a­tor and eat up the emerg­ing sec­tion of straight car­riage­way ahead.

As the revs keep ris­ing there’s a gutsy snarl we don’t re­call from the last mk4 we drove – the lim­ited edi­tion Z-sport – and with­out doubt the car is hus­tling along with greater ur­gency and do­ing so from lower down the rev range. Then the rev counter’s nee­dle goes rock­et­ing past the 6800rpm mark where pre­vi­ously its progress would have been gen­tly halted by the engine man­age­ment sys­tem, and cli­maxes at a heady and heart­en­ing 7500rpm, the same as the 1.5: seems like a more nat­u­ral place for a zippy lit­tle open-top sports car to hang its red line

As the revs keep ris­ing there’s a gutsy snarl we don’t re­call from the last mk4 we drove

than fur­ther back round the dial, while the ex­tra punch, well, who wouldn’t want a bit of that?

This, in case you haven’t al­ready guessed, is the 2019 mk4 MX-5. Per­haps we should re­fer to it as the mk4.5, be­cause although there are no ex­ter­nal vis­ual changes, bar a new paint colour for the al­loy wheels, un­der the bon­net Mazda’s en­gi­neers have been busy, mainly with the 2.0-litre Sky­ac­tiv-g engine but also tin­ker­ing with the 1.5litre ver­sion. In these cost-con­scious, mi­crochip-man­aged times, it’s com­mon prac­tice for engine up­grades to be lit­tle more than tweak­ing a few al­go­rithms, but Mazda has gone old school and at­tended to the me­chan­i­cal parts, too.

Each of the 2.0-litre’s pis­tons is 27g lighter, and 41g have been lost from each con­rod; the crankshaft is re­designed, as are the camshafts; there are new fuel in­jec­tors; breath­ing is im­proved thanks to a 28% larger in­take throt­tle body com­bined with big­ger in­let ports and ex­haust valve di­am­e­ters – the ex­haust valves are also lighter and now ac­ti­vated by a high-lift cam lobe; a pickme-up for the throt­tle re­sponse is achieved cour­tesy of a low-in­er­tia dual­mass fly­wheel; and Mazda has fi­nally done some­thing about the unin­spir­ing ex­haust note by fit­ting a raspier si­lencer. Con­sid­er­ably less has been done with the 1.5-litre Sky­ac­tiv-g, but Mazda has re­duced its in­ter­nal fric­tional losses for greater econ­omy and, pre­sum­ably, im­proved throt­tle re­sponse.

Per­haps a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ingly there’s no power in­crease for the 1.5, and its torque rises an im­per­cep­ti­ble 1lb ft over the pre­vi­ous peak of 111lb ft. Not that the 2.0-litre – de­spite the depth of its reengi­neer­ing – fares much bet­ter in the torque depart­ment, now top­ping out at 151lb ft (de­vel­oped at 4000rpm) against the 148lb ft of be­fore. It’s a much bet­ter story where the power is con­cerned, thank­fully, the peak boosted from a per­fectly ad­e­quate 158bhp to a more thrilling 181bhp.

But it’s the way the re­vamped 2.0-litre engine de­liv­ers its power that is the rev­e­la­tion: it’s now as rev-happy as the 1.5 whilst flex­ing ap­pre­cia­bly more mus­cle than ei­ther the smaller ca­pac­ity unit or its 2.0-litre fore­bear. It picks up heartily from be­low 2000rpm and zings on, ever-en­er­get­i­cally, through to that 7500rpm soft redline: max­i­mum power is ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped at 7000rpm, but the engine be­haves so sweetly and sounds so en­cour­ag­ing at the top end that you’ll want to keep wring­ing it all the way out.

The ben­e­fits of the ex­tra oomph can be en­joyed all along the back lanes of North­ern Ire­land. Be­cause you’re not bump­ing into the rev lim­iter so early you don’t have to change gear so of­ten, plus you’ve got more poke to play with in any given ra­tio. Ex­it­ing cor­ners is where you ap­pre­ci­ate it the most, be­cause the ad­di­tional firepower and throt­tle re­sponse mean you’re not wait­ing so long for the revs to build and you’re ac­cel­er­at­ing faster. Mazda’s of­fi­cial per­for­mance fig­ures say that the new 2.0-litre engine gets the mk4 from stand­still to 62mph in 6.5sec, which is 0.8sec quicker than be­fore, yet out on the road the power gain feels bet­ter than that be­cause it makes its pres­ence felt across a broad spec­trum of real-world driv­ing con­di­tions.

That’s not to say that sud­denly the 2.0 MX-5 has el­e­vated its sta­tus to that of hard­core sports car and that Porsche Boxster drivers will need to keep a keener eye on their rear-view mir­rors. But in a car that still only weighs 1105kg (com­plete with 75kg driver), a 23bhp power in­crease has a greater im­pact than it would in other, far heav­ier sports cars.with a de­gree of com­mit­ment you could whip the old 2.0 along at very se­ri­ous pace on an empty road be­cause the chas­sis is so classy and ag­ile: the re­vised car’s new­found throt­tle re­sponse makes the mk4 feel even more play­ful be­cause it gives you greater con­trol to ad­just the bal­ance of the chas­sis in long, fast cor­ners. It’s not that the ex­tra horse­power brings the chas­sis alive be­cause it has never been lack­ing in that depart­ment, it sim­ply gives it even

greater vi­tal­ity.

Now that you’re ar­riv­ing at cor­ners some­what more rapidly than pre­vi­ously, it would have been nice if Mazda had up­rated the mk4’s brakes: their ini­tial bite is mea­gre and by the time you’ve re­alised that you’re not slow­ing down at quite the rate you were ex­pect­ing, you’re jump­ing on the mid­dle pedal. Still, that gives the af­ter­mar­ket brake man­u­fac­tur­ers some­thing to sink their teeth into. And de­spite the fact that the 2.0 mk4 now has a sound­track much more ap­pro­pri­ate to a hot-headed sports car, the af­ter­mar­ket ex­haust guys will, with­out doubt, be able to give it more au­ral men­ace than a mass-pro­duc­tion car maker like Mazda can get away with.

As with the ex­te­rior, Mazda has wisely left the in­te­rior un­changed vis­ually. But

Soul Red Crys­tal is a new colour for the MX-5 and in sun­light re­ally sparkles, but it’s a £790 op­tion. Sand leather up­hol­stery is stan­dard on the new range-top­ping 2.0 GT Sport Nav+. Help­ing the econ­omy and emis­sions of both the 2.0 and 1.5 is the in­tro­duc­tion of a stop/start sys­tem

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.