What is it?
The Mk4 Mazda MX-5 has only been with us for three years but already it’s cemented itself as a legend of the family.
We love it for its attainable thrills and back-to-basics character. And, apparently, so does almost everyone else, as is evident by the two-seater’s growing number of sales, which totalled a not-unimpressive 39,773 in Europe last year. But while it’s successfully serving as the plucky halo car for Mazda by appealing to the mainstream, for some keen drivers it has yet to really reach its full potential.
The reason relates to its powertrains. With just two engines available from launch, a 1.5-litre unit offering 129bhp or a 2.0-litre version with 158bhp, the car has never been able to garner the attention of those after something serious, something that offers performance in a sports car package to rival the mainstream hot hatches.
The car has looked underpowered next to mainstay models such as the 197bhp Ford Fiesta ST, and Mazda knows this. In fact, it’s always known this, because executives now admit that they put the car to market in 2015 with the intention of further developing the 2.0-litre unit for more power. Now, the time has nearly come for these planned enhancements to be introduced to the road as part of a wave of updates.
From 1 September, the MX-5 will come with a telescopic steering column offering 30mm of welcome reach adjustment and optional Apple CarPlay, enhancing the car’s appeal. The entry 1.5 model will also get a few small mechanical improvements to offer 1bhp more, at 130bhp — although that’s not exactly something to shout about.
The 2.0, on the other hand, grabs headlines with a longer list of upgrades to offer a much more substantial 23bhp, with peak output now a rather healthy 181bhp. The changes to realise this new performance include lighter pistons and conrods, a wider throttle body and enlarged port area, as well as a bigger-bore exhaust valve.
There’s also a lightened flywheel to enhance the motor’s responsiveness and it contributes to an increased hunger for revs, with that peak power output arriving at 7000rpm and the limiter now set at 7500rpm — a respective 1000rpm and 700rpm higher than before.