Home First Drives Mazda MX-5 First Drive

Mazda MX-5 First Drive

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Mazda’s iconic two-seat lightweight sportscar the MX-5, is set to continue the trend as the best-selling roadster in history, with the introduction of the all-new fourth-generation MX-5. Approximately one million MX-5’s have been sold worldwide since it was first introduced in 1989.  This new model benefits from some design changes, along with weight saving measures and the introduction of new SKYACTIV engines. Through the use of aluminium and other weight saving materials this new MX-5 is 100 kilograms lighter than its predecessor, the 1.5-litre variant has a kerb weight of just 975 kilograms. The front wings and bonnet are constructed from all aluminium, the rear suspension cross members have holes in them to further reduce weight without scarifying performance.

Masashi Nakayama the Chief Designer is keen to impress that all along the design process of this new MX-5 it was extremely important to him that Mazda remain true to the key attributes of the original MX-5. This new model is instantly recognisable as an MX-5, however it has been faithfully modernised with sleek lines and a shorter wheelbase. The driver and passenger now sit further back, closer to the rear wheels and 20 millimetres lower, this aids the car’s perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The front of the car has been lowered with a shortened overhang, with less space Mazda’s designers have incorporated compact LED headlights on all variants.

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The interior is driver-oriented, with the steering wheel, instrument cluster and pedals in perfect symmetry. There’s adequate space for two adults to travel in comfort with numerous storage compartments throughout, there is two decent sized storage areas behind the seats, and the boot too has been increased over its precursor and can accommodate two carry-on-cases with ease.

Irish motorists can choose from two trim levels, the entry-level MX-5 Roadster (€27,995) features 16” alloy wheels, LED headlights, a leather steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectivity, cruise control, heated power door mirrors and dynamic stability control with traction control. The Roadster GT variant costs an additional €2,000. For the additional spend the car has 16” gun metal alloy wheels, a Bose sound system with nine speakers, piano black wing mirrors, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, keyless entry, heated leather seats and lane departure warning.

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Powering the new MX-5 are two SKYACTIV-G petrol engines, a 1.5-litre unit that produces 131hp and 150Nm of torque and a 2.0-litre engine that produces 160hp and 200Nm of torque. Mazda Ireland will only be offering the former engine to Irish customers. We drove both models at launch, albeit in pre-production cars, prior to their arrival this August. Both cars excelled along our test route around the Col Da Vence on the outskirts of Nice. The car’s steering is now an electric power assist system which replaces the previous hydraulic power assist steering. It’s accurately weighted for turn and feel. There is an impressive amount of front-end grip on turn-in, the car instils confidence on twisty sections of road. Changing gear is extremely satisfying with the short crisp gear change on the six-speed manual transmission. Acceleration is smooth, the 1.5-litre engine happily revs to the redline at 7,500rpm, there’s a slight change in the engine note from 5,000 rpm as the car accelerates at a decent pace. There are two notable differences when driving the 2.0-litre variant, firstly the additional torque aids acceleration from low revs with ease. Secondly, this model is equipped with a hydraulic limited slip differential. I don’t think any driver will feel short-changed with the smaller capacity engine, it delivers sufficient performance for an entertaining drive. I do believe though that it would benefit from having the differential, that said, the majority of drivers may not drive the car too enthusiastically to appreciate the benefit of the differential.

This new Mazda MX-5 thankfully remains true to the original mark 1, a lightweight sportscar with a traditional front engine rear-wheel-drive configuration. Twenty six years on this new model is every bit as entertaining to drive as the original, with the added benefit of some additional infotainment and safety technology.

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