The latest Mazda roadster is lighter, faster, sharper to look at and promises a return to the "fun to drive" characteristics of the 25-year-old original
10 February 2015

The all-new Mazda MX-5, which is showcased here in our exclusive studio pictures, is likely to offer buyers a wide spectrum of personalisation options when it goes on sale in the UK later this summer.

Mazda will preview the range of personalisation options available to US-based MX-5 owners with a concept car at the Chicago motor show later this month, though pricing and specification for UK models is still being decided.

That said, it's likely that Mazda will follow the likes of Fiat, Citroën and Mini in offering extensive personalisation programmes for its new model. Options are expected to include interior trim and exterior styling elements.

The fourth-generation version of the 25-year-old rear-drive roadster - unveiled at the 2014 Paris motor show - is new from the ground up and enters the market with a brand new rear-wheel-drive chassis and two new petrol engines, all built using the company’s SkyActiv technology.

Mazda MX-5 program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto said the new car had to conform to five crucial rules that now characterise the MX-5 – rear drive with a front-mid engine layout, 50/50 weight distribution, minimal “yaw inertia” (how quickly it changes direction), a low kerb weight and affordability.

Read the Mazda MX-5 first drive review

Yamamoto, who developed the original MX-5 and has worked on all the generations of the car, said he went back to the first car for inspiration.

This latest version reverses the trend of generational changes of MX-5s by being lighter and smaller than the car it replaces. Mazda isn’t saying exactly what the new weight figures are but it will admit to savings "of around 100kgs", meaning that the base model should end up being just a shade over one tonne.

As well as using SkyActiv design to cut weight from the Mazda's chassis, the bonnet, boot and front wings are now made from aluminium – and a lighter material has also been used in the soft-top hood construction.

Additionally, most of the front suspension is aluminium, as is the gearbox casing, the differential casing and the pierced structural bracing that runs down the car’s centre. Many of the components, such as the front upper suspension wishbone, have also been reduced in size.

Weight saving extends as far as reducing the wheel bolts from five to four, possible because the lighter car can use lighter wheels requiring fewer fixings. In turn, this means the brakes can also be smaller, further reducing mass.

The new car is also 105mm shorter in overall length than the outgoing version, though its wheelbase has only shrunk by 15mm. It is also 20mm lower, but 10mm wider.

The history of the Mazda MX-5 – picture special

Under the bonnet of model on show in Paris was a direct-injection SkyActiv 1.5-litre petrol engine which, like the other petrol units in Mazda's SkyActiv range, features a high compression ratio. The engine is longitudinally mounted in the nose of the car. The Paris car featured a six-speed manual gearbox, but a six-speed automatic transmissions will be offered as an option in some markets.

There's also set to be a 2.0-litre engine for some regions. Both powerplants are reworked versions of engines already powering the company’s hatchbacks and are likely to offer around 140bhp and 180bhp respectively.

This represents a small power advantage over current models – our source admitted that the "US market wouldn’t accept less power" – but with the weight savings they promises superior power-to-weight ratios, extra performance and considerable fuel economy and CO2 advantages. 

Mazda is already being bullish about the credentials of the new rear-drive chassis which, as before, has double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear end.

Company boss Masamichi Kogai has already talked about the new car recapturing the agility and fun of the first generation model. "The original concept behind the MX-5 was so simple; to offer the pure joy of a lightweight sports car that moves precisely as the driver intends," he said. 

To assist this the engine now sits lower and further back than previously, lowering the centre of gravity and, according to product development boss Nobuhiro Yamamoto, the MX-5 now has a perfect 50:50 weight balance. 

The design work was mainly carried out at the company’s Japanese headquarters under the direction of Ikuo Maeda. Like the company’s recent saloons and hatchbacks it’s referred to as being part of the ‘Kodo’ design philosophy – but it’s a more simple, sculptured look than we’ve come to expect from modern Mazdas. It's more sharp-edged than with previous MX-5s too. 

Celebrating 25 years of the Mazda MX-5 - picture special

Inside, there are plenty of MX-5 hallmarks. It’s still a snug two-seater and it’s still possible to lower the manually operated soft-top hood with one hand. You still sit low in the car but the view out is claimed to be superior as the bonnet has been lowered and the A-pillars and windscreen header rail have been made thinner.

Like previous incarnations the cabin looks cluttered and all the controls are simple. The centre of the dash top is now dominated by an infotainment screen, derived from the Mazda 3 hatch. Like other Mazdas it’s also controlled by a rotary knob, nestling next to the conventional handbrake. 

There’s also a tangible uplift in cabin quality compared to previous incarnations, with far more soft-touch surfaces and more stowage space. More attention has also been paid to keeping passengers from being buffeted whilst driving with the hood down. Mk1 MX-5 fans will also no doubt recognise the headrest-mounted speakers, intended to help maintain music volume with the roof down.

Body-coloured inserts on the door tops are, said Yamamoto, designed to bring the outside into the car’s cabin and break down the “border” between outside and inside that the doors would normally form.

Prices will be announced closer to the on sale date but there’s likely to be a small rise compared to current models. As such a base 1.5-litre model should cost around £20,000 when it hits the showrooms.

When the new Mazda MX-5 launches there will only be a soft-top model - though a folding metal-roofed coupé will join the line-up later, as this model currently accounts for 80 per cent of UK sales and is popular among many European and Japanese market buyers. The second generation folding hard-top is said to be lighter and packaged more efficiently, delivering slightly improved boot volume.

To achieve economies of scale, the MX-5 is being developed built alongside a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles model, originally announced as an Alfa Romeo. Insiders suggest around 40 per cent of parts will be common between the two cars; typically, joint ventures use upwards of 60 per cent of common parts.

However, with Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne insistent that any future Alfa would only be built in Italy, the MX-5’s sister model is likely now to wear a Fiat or Abarth badge, something which our source indicates had yet to be fully communicated by Fiat to Mazda. 

See What Car?'s Mazda Mx-5 video preview

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Our Verdict

Mazda MX-5
Mazda's MX-5 has been established for decades as an affordable and enjoyable rear-drive convertible

The Mazda MX-5 is still great fun, and more grown up

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Comments
45

4 September 2014
Worth staying up to watch the reveal - its fantastic! The current car appeared dull to look at and drive so I picked a late second generation car when I changed last. I hope this reverses the MX-5s sales trend and secures the cars future. I will definately be getting one.

30 January 2015
gussy51 wrote:
Worth staying up to watch the reveal - its fantastic! The current car appeared dull to look at and drive so I picked a late second generation car when I changed last. I hope this reverses the MX-5s sales trend and secures the cars future. I will definately be getting one.
Am I seeing things? Is this a miracle? Try clicking 'next' and be surprised !

30 January 2015
abkq wrote:
gussy51 wrote:
Worth staying up to watch the reveal - its fantastic! The current car appeared dull to look at and drive so I picked a late second generation car when I changed last. I hope this reverses the MX-5s sales trend and secures the cars future. I will definately be getting one.
Am I seeing things? Is this a miracle? Try clicking 'next' and be surprised !
Nope, it's stopped working again.

4 September 2014
I love it! Mazda seems to be on a roll lately, especially here in the states . Not just with their styling (which i know is completely subjective, but to my eyes, their recent models are quite handsome) but the philosophy and execution of the various models in the range. It seems like cars are finally getting lighter but it's awesome to see the Miata retain a naturally aspirated engine as well. It just seems like a car intended to make driving fun. I totally dig it.

4 September 2014
It is too bad that all the modern sports cars from this to the SLS AMG that are NOT 2+2 have no room at all behind the seats for anything! in my TR6 and MGB i used to stuff suitcases,banjos,golf clubs,and even the occasional person behind the seats.You could even cram someone behind the seats in a Midget or TR3 ! i know,I did it!

Madmac

4 September 2014
It looks fantastic, not as clean and simple as the fantastic mark 1 (admittedly an Elan clone) but I think the slightly 'tougher' looks are appropriate. I particularly like the rear lights. I was rather surprised to read the correspondent's view that "Like previous incarnations the cabin looks cluttered and all the controls are simple." The cabins of previous versions of the MX-5 had always struck me as relatively uncluttered. It sounds like all version will be stuck with that stupid iPad screen on the dash; that's a shame - wish it was optional at least.

12 October 2014
This car is for driving, pure and simple. Anything that detracts/distracts is unneeded, IMO. My '06 is fine, but could use more lower end grunt and better lumbar support in wider seats. To hell with the rest.

4 September 2014
I always lusted after a MX5, but never fitted into the cabin. I wonder if the steering wheel adjusts fore and aft and up and down ? The boot lip is rather high on this new car, but that's not really important. This is the first car for ages that I like the look of !

4 September 2014
but was straight on the website at when I woke 5:15 this morning. I really like the subtle aggression of the front end and the simplified dash arrangement. I'm not totally sure I like the styling of the rear end though...... I think it may grow on me. Looking forward to confirmation of the engines on offer; 180BHP in a lighter car sounds like a recipe for even more fun. If the starting price will be around £20k, it would be a good entry point to MX-5 fun.

"Will accept donation of a Carrera GT, EB110 SS or McLaren F1...oh yeah or a Spyker C8 Aileron Spyder"

4 September 2014
Interior looks amazing - leaps and bounds over the last one. Great stuff. Exterior less convincing, looks like one you need to see in the metal. A little like a Jag F-Type got shrunk in the wash..But overall what a great car!

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