Mazda has spent more than 25 years being obsessed with everything a lightweight sports car can be. All the Jinba Ittai inspiration gained over three model generations has gone into the all-new Mazda MX-5.
Its aggressive looks are, in a word, moving. Even at a standstill, the MX-5’s flowing KODO-inspired lines seem to be in motion. But it still looks best – as do those inside it – in its main element: Namely driving down the open road with the top down.
Jinba Ittai, the rider-and-horse-as-one-body doctrine that has defined the relationship between drivers and their MX-5 from the beginning, applies in more ways than one. For example, in the way the interior design and remarkably clever packaging of the fourth generation model melt away the boundaries between the cabin and the exterior.
More traditional Jinba Ittai trademarks were also edged that much closer to perfection. Like weight distribution, which is now nearer than ever to the centre of gravity of a car that is lower to the ground with shorter overhangs. Starting at under 1,000kg, the all-new MX-5 weighs some 10% less than the outgoing model and is the lightest since the first generation. And that in spite of the advanced active and passive safety, smartphone connectivity technology, and evolved ergonomics with a human-machine interface that enables the driver to make the most of it all.
The MX-5 was a source of inspiration for Mazda innovations like SKYACTIV Technology, since implemented across the model line-up. Now SKYACTIV comes home to the latest MX-5 with two specially modified high-compression SKYACTIV-G petrol engines. A SKYACTIV-MT manual gearbox that takes the roadster’s smooth, crisp shifting up another notch, a lightweight yet exceptionally strong SKYACTIV-Body, and a SKYACTIV-Chassis adapted to further enhance the already outstanding agility of Mazda’s icon.
And ultimately, pure driving fun is what the world’s all-time best selling roadster is about. The fourth-generation MX-5 is without doubt the most memorable edition yet.
The design starts with the people. After all, a roadster is meant to be driven with the top down, and driver and passenger are meant to be seen. That has been a key part of the MX-5’s allure for more than 25 years. Another is the patented Jinba Ittai driver-and-car-as-one feeling. Mazda’s KODO – Soul of Motion design for the fourth-generation MX-5 unites both concepts in a powerful visual expression of its essential character: quick, agile and above all fun to drive.
A hallmark of the all-new MX-5, perhaps more than any of its predecessors, is its ideal proportions. Occupants are seated literally at the vehicle’s midpoint, closer to the ground than in past MX-5s, reflecting the new model’s lower centre of gravity. The shortest MX-5 ever is also sleeker. Every single line and curve is intended to do one thing: set the onlooker’s heart racing.
Underpinning the new roadster are sporty 16 or 17-inch eight-spoke alloy wheels with four-nut centre hub finished in either gunmetal or silver (16-inch) and gunmetal or bright silver (17-inch). Whatever the choice, they should resonate with driving enthusiasts: Made from cold-cast aluminium, they’re both lightweight and durable.
The all-new MX-5 seems to erase the boundaries between the car, driver, road and scenery. For example, the ridgeline extending to the front fender from the upper door trim, is the same colour as the exterior, uniting inside and outside. The effect also underscores the traditional Jinba Ittai connection: It’s cosy as always in the MX-5, only now even more comfortable and ergonomic.
In true lightweight sports car tradition, the unpretentious steering wheel says “hop in and drive”. With a compact 366mm diameter, it features a black leather cover with red stitching and three satin chrome spokes matching the climate control dials and shift boot ring. It works like it looks, too: On winding roads, the grip and rim facilitate quick, precise operation and hand-over-hand action, also letting the hands slide smoothly along the surface. The switches, meanwhile, are mounted inside the left and right spokes for easy access, recessed just enough not to interfere with operation.
Completely redesigned, the elegantly detailed three-gauge analogue instrument cluster with satin chrome rings is centred around a large tachometer with the speedometer to the right and an information display on the left. The latter includes fuel and mileage indicators as well as a performanceoriented water temperature gauge featuring a wider range than previous models.
The symmetry continues along the sleek wing-like dash, which stretches out horizontally to create a sense of roominess on the passenger side while further diminishing the boundaries between the MX-5 and its surroundings. The effect endures with the seamless flow of the panels into and along the trim of the doors. Their shapes express a dynamic pattern flowing from front to back. Highlighting the sculpted look, the soft material with decorative stitching on the armrests and central door trim sections contrasts pleasingly with the exterior coloured upper-door sections.
The all-new MX-5 features high-quality sports car seats in leather or fabric that blend sophisticated beauty with maximal functionality (see box). Snug in longstanding MX-5 tradition, the cushions and seatbacks have a new net structure that enhances comfort, fitting occupants perfectly but still firm enough to hold them securely in place in tight corners.
The all-new MX-5 comes with a choice of sporty black leather upholstery with red stitching or black fabric with either red or black stitching. Tan leather with beige stitching is also offered in right-hand drive models for the authentic feel of a classic British roadster, while left-hand drive MX-5s are available with black Recaro seats in a combination of nappa leather and Alcantara® with red piping accentuating the seat edge. In allcases, the door trim and lower dash is finished in the same look.
Another clever enhancement, the luggage compartment of the all-new MX-5 is 35mm longer and 36mm deeper than its predecessor’s and can thus accommodate a pair of 550mm x 400mm x 220mm carry-on bags, despite the smaller overall boot volume of 130l.
Like other new-generation Mazdas, the all-new MX-5 safely and effortlessly connects driver and passenger with the world around them. And without distracting from what matters most: the joy of the iconic roadster.
An independent 7-inch display is mounted on top of the dashboard of MX-5s with MZD Connect, Mazda’s smartphone-based system now available for the first time on the MX-5. Drivers can use the rotary commander on the floor to effortlessly control the MX-5’s infotainment offerings shown via the display. Many infotainment functions are also accessible using voice command, including the audio system’s play, stop and skip functions or to zoom in and out of the navigation system’s map displays. All audio systems, meanwhile, support DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) as well as RDS.
The Mazda MX-5 has never been about breakneck speed, but rather the right balance between power, weight, responsiveness and agility. These are the ingredients for maximum fun, and the all-new MX-5 and its SKYACTIV powertrains take the legendary roadster that much closer to perfection.
Under the bonnet of the all-new MX-5 is one of two proven direct-injection petrol engines – the SKYACTIV-G 1.5 (96 kW) or SKYACTIV-G 2.0 (118 kW) – specially tuned for the Mazda’s newest icon. Both are mated to an especially crisp SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual adapted for the MX-5’s classic front mid-engine, rear-wheel drive (FMR) layout.
To amplify the fun factor, both engines feature new lighter and more compact intake and exhaust systems built to tap the full engine potential. The intake system, which weighs some 30% less than that in the outgoing MX-5, significantly reduces airflow resistance while cleverly removing exhaust heat to better sustain intake efficiency. The 4-2-1 exhaust manifold – an anti-knocking and pro-efficiency SKYACTIV-G mainstay feature – was also redesigned for the RWD layout as well as for an ideal torque curve and a pleasing engine sound.
Not even the radiator was spared: Smaller and lighter, it now features air ducts and flaps to regulate air pressure from the fan, further enhancing cooling efficiency. The radiator was also repositioned closer to car’s centre of gravity – just one of several measures to optimise weight distribution in the engine compartment. This enhances the MX-5’s already superb agility, not to mention durability and NVH.
The unique SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual was originally developed to bring the MX-5’s celebrated short, direct shift stroke to the rest of the Mazda model line-up. Now it comes full circle with a lively SKYACTIV-MT designed exclusively for the roadster’s FMR layout, amplifying the Jinba Ittai driver-and-car-as-one experience. Adaptations here include simplified shift link mechanisms to reduce sliding resistance in the gearbox linkage, but without undermining the crisp shifting. The result: smooth, light gear changes that seem to “draw” the gearshift into the right position, but with the same short 40mm shift stroke common to all MX-5s since day one.