What is it?
Cars that engage their drivers rarely if ever achieve it with power alone, and that’s a song Mazda has always sung heartily with the MX-5.
Too heartily, perhaps. Until now, the most powerful factory car touted just 158bhp from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and so companies such as BBR GTI, whose sympathetically fitted turbo kits provide power enough to properly exploit the perfect weight distribution and rear-driven handling, have thrived.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed in Hiroshima, and for 2018, Mazda has revised this larger Skyactiv engine. (The 1.5-litre remains largely unchanged.) Mechanical modifications – including lighter pistons and conrods along with revisions to the camshaft, injectors, throttle valve and air intake – have increased its output to 181bhp and yet emissions have fallen with the adoption of an engine stop/start system.
Mazda has made no changes to the chassis – not publicly, at any rate – and the MX-5 retains its double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension with a passive spring and damper set-up at each corner. All 2.0-litre cars use a mechanical limited-slip differential, while those in range-topping Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+ specifications also benefit from Bilstein dampers and a strut brace.
We’ve already driven this latest MX-5 on the legendary Transfagarasan, where it fared superbly, but now we have the opportunity to try the more versatile hard-top RF on UK soil.