The third-generation Mazda MX-5 has undergone a mid-life facelift and now has a grin as wide as the new Mazda3's, notes DAVE MOORE.
Mazda launched a revamped version of its *record- breaking MX-5 on its home market last week and we can expect the model to arrive in New Zealand in the first quarter of 2009.
The latest version of Mazda's two- seat sportster carries forward the car's traditional "Jinba Ittai" (rider and horse as one) concept, and features detailed improvements in the exterior and interior design, quality, functionality and dynamics. As a result, Mazda says, the roadster is more fun to drive, with the folding hardtop version being quieter and with more home comforts.
The design of the MX-5's "chin" has been updated with a version that which debuted on the series II Mazda3 in November at the Los Angeles motor show. Also, the character line that stretches along the lower edge of the vehicle's sides has been extended to the rear bumper, giving the MX-5 more visual horizontal tension.
The protruding design of the front bumper corners and the rear combination lights, together with wider front under-floor tyre deflectors, contribute to improved aerodynamics. The car's rear-end has been updated with new rear combination lights that flow smoothly into the bumper. A larger black-rear diffuser further emphasises the MX-5's sporty appearance.
New alloy wheels, with five-spoke 16-inch and 10-spoke 17-inch designs are also featured for the new car as well as new exterior body colours, including grey mica, aluminum metallic and sunflower yellow. Additionally, forged 17-inch alloy wheels, customised by BBS, are available as a factory-installed option.
On the inside, the five gauges on the instrument panel have been newly designed and are highlighted by a dark silver decorative panel, and silver rings have been added to the air- conditioner dials on the centre panel to raise the interior-quality feel. The design of the car's inner door pockets has been flattened to increase space in the foot well. Soft padding has been added to the lid on the centre-console storage box and the door armrests to increase comfort levels, especially when cornering, while the seats have larger side bolsters for greater support for the same reason.
The interior quality is enhanced by the options of chocolate brown hide or Recaro bucket seats upholstered in a combination of leather and Alcantara suede. Comfort levels are also improved through the addition of heated seats with a temperature control with five temperature settings - for models with leather seats.
Thanks to a new forged crankshaft for the 2.0-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine, the revolution limit on manual MX-5s has been increased to 7500 rpm for improved driving performance. Improvements have been made to the engine and body to enhance noise reduction and provide a more satisfying engine sound.
By lowering the front-roll centre height by 26 millimetres, the added vertical load on the outer wheels when cornering is minimised. This results in a more natural amount of body roll when cornering and more linear response to steering inputs.
With added improvements to the suspension, the updated MX-5 offers improved handling balanced with a higher quality ride. The MX-5's gearboxes have also been updated. The six-speed manual now provides a smoother shift feel actions thanks to the use of carbon-coated meshing surfaces on the first to fourth triple- cone synchronisers and a larger diameter third to fourth synchroniser. Six-speed manual transmission models also feature a newly developed induction sound enhancer. This amplifies the throbbing noise generated as air is sucked into the engine and reverberates it around the cabin for an even better driving experience. The six-speed automatic now offers Direct Mode and Active Adaptive Shift functions, where steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters can be used to change gear even when the lever is in the drive position.
The Mazda MX-5 was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's highest-selling production two-seat open-top sports car when production passed 500,000 units in 2000. Guinness has updated the roadster's record since then, which now stands at over 800,000 units built.