The British love affair
with the sports car was rekindled in 1989 with
the launch of the MX-5. Today, with sales approaching
half a million world-wide, the appeal of this
open two-seater remains undiminished, but after
nine years a major revamp was overdue. Mazda's
main problem was how to improve its popularity,
yet not upset the many devout admirers at the
This was a real dilemma, but sensibly
the Japanese manufacturer followed the 'if it
ain't broke, dont fix it' philosophy, so the
changes are largely under the skin with just
a deft touch and a slight tweak on the surface
- nothing too drastic that would change the
overall appearance of a winning formula, although
not many panels from the old car have been taken
The most obvious visual change
is the replacement of the pop-up headlamps with
fixed units, while at the rear the boot lid
has been raised slightly, along with minor tinkering
elsewhere, to make the body aerodynamically
more efficient and just 5mm wider. Otherwise
it shares more-or-less the same dimensions as
the model it replaces.
of the objectives set by Mazda was for the car
to retain its familiarity - which has been achieved
- so that existing enthusiasts would immediately
identify with the car yet, at the same time,
gain one or two new devotees to open-air motoring.
The snug interior is where
the makeover is most noticeable. Redesigned
seats for greater support, a slightly more curvaceous
dashboard and re-worked instrument panel, dual
airbags (as well as other passive safety features)
and a wind aeroboard on the 1.8 derivative to
lessen the air flow from the rear during open
top motoring, are just some of the alterations/additions
that have taken place.
A larger boot (the space-saver
spare wheel now lives beneath the floor divider
with the battery) and more interior stowage
space adds to the practicality of the car.
Raising and lowering the vinyl
hood remains superbly easy after releasing just
two side catches and pushing the frame back.
A tonneau cover is supplied as standard. Equally
welcome is the integral heated rear glass screen.
This is a real bonus in comparison with the
restrictive visibility often associated with
the plastic screen on most other convertibles.
The same couple of engines from
the previous MX-5 has been retained for the
newcomer, although both have been revised to
increase their flexibility and give a performance
boost throughout the range.
the road these improvements are immediately
evident as the power is delivered and you slice
cleanly through the five-speed manual gearbox
to skim about a second off the 0-62mph with
the 1.6-litre and just over half-a-second from
the 1.8-litre powered version as compared with
the old model. Actual timings are now 9.7 and
eight seconds respectively.
speed for the smaller engined car is 118mph
(up 9mph) and 127mph for the 1.8-litre, an improvement
of 4mph. Stopping is equally impressive too,
the all-round disc brakes are superb with just
the right amount of feel to the pedal. ABS is
standard on the 1.8iS version.
Most important in this day of the
£3-plus gallon of petrol is the consumption
and in both cases this has decreased with over
30mpg being easily attainable during normal
everyday use. Again, this is a useful improvement
on earlier variants.
With its classic front engine rear
wheel drive layout to give excellent weight
distribution and balance, the new car now feels
even better due to various mechanical changes
that have tightened up the suspension to give
even sharper handling. But that's not all, the
body feels altogether more rigid and beefier,
although not to the detriment of the ride quality
which is difficult to fault.
With an on-the-road starting price
of £15,520 for the new 1.6i MX-5 and another
£1,130 for the higher powered derivative, this
roadster offers maximum fun for a reasonable
outlay. Throw in three years/60,000 mile warranty
& European recovery, Group 11 insurance on the
1.6 and 12 for the larger capacity 1.8-litre
unit and you have a package that is unrivalled
in this expanding small sports car sector.
Certainly nothing has been lost
in the new model, but much has been gained.
In our opinion the car is better than ever and
should easily achieve the maker's aspirations
and bring the joys of open air motoring to a
still wider audience.