Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: September 13, 2016
Released in 1989, Mazda took the British roadster formula – a small, lightweight, sporty convertible – and completely revolutionized it. They didn’t change any of the formula’s ingredients; rather they altered one tiny detail. See, unlike the British counterparts, Mazda’s roadster actually runs on its own power on those rare sunny British days.
It’s really hard to fault Mazda on the Miata. You can say whatever you want about the car. You can bash it in any which way you choose, but the fact of the matter is that the Miata will inevitably slap you with its stellar sales history.
The 1,000,000th Miata just rolled off the production line a few short months ago in Hiroshima, Japan. That’s right, the MX-5 holds the world record for the best selling roadster, ever. In fact, I’d wager that sales of the Miata were what kept Mazda afloat while they futzed around with rotary motors (Disclaimer: I’m not well imbued with financial knowledge of Mazda’s R&D department). All jokes aside, Mazda hasn’t taken the success of their darling roadster for granted, and have developed the fourth generation ND model with feedback from their customers in mind.
For starters, Mazda’s design team has added a dollop of masculinity to the formerly happy-go-lucky face of the previous gen NC model. The new ND’s fascia looks angry and the lights point downward, drawing your gaze to the maniacal smile of the front grille. It’s smaller and lighter than the outgoing model too – as if the NC was too heavy. Still, the engineers at Mazda shaved 124 kg off the curb weight of the old roadster and made the size of the ND closer to the original (NA).
Sitting inside the new MX-5, you never would have guessed that it is smaller and lighter than the previous model. It feels roomier if anything. Most surfaces are adorned with beautiful tan leather and for the first time, GPS Navigation is available inside the car – a la Mazda’s iDrive-like system. Just where are the weight savings coming from?
Gram by gram, Mazda managed to cut the weight down by scrutinizing the most petite details. For example, the company used more high-tensile steel and aluminum instead of regular steel wherever it could. The result is a stiffer chassis that weighs less. The bolts used in the SKYACTIV 2.0L motor are lighter too, shaving 8 grams each. The result? 10.9 kg is removed from the motor.
Finally, trim pieces where possible were swapped out or removed all together. My favourite is the mechanism to lift the seat. The seating rails are angled to raise the seat as you pull yourself closer – this innovation allowed the engineers to completely ditch the seat lifting mechanism.
All this creative thinking cumulates to a more rewarding driving experience. As the company’s new slogan goes: “Driving Matters”. Starting up the tiny little 2.0L and it’s quite obvious that Mazda may be one of the last Japanese automakers that still take that to heart. It’s a sublime machine.
A quick flick of the wrist and the top is removed. The clutch is wonderfully light, incredibly direct, and engagement is early in the pedal’s travel. The shifter is a short little number that feels like its bolted straight into the transmission. Throws are light, gates are narrow, and there’s never any question what gear you’re in.
The steering wheel is mounted to an electronically assisted rack, and it’s unapologetic. It never pretends to be something it’s not, it stays proportional to the pint-sized vehicle.
Mazda’s SKYACTIV 2.0L four banger punches out 155 hp and a paltry 148 lb-ft, but what the lightweight nimble sportster lacks in outright firepower it more than makes up for it in pep and verve.
Always eager to change directions, the Miata never ceases to amaze in every single situation. Chuck it hard into a corner and the chassis responds with ample body roll, but not in a bad way. The rigid chassis makes up for the roll, fighting away any hint of understeer.
Give it a boot of power and the car rotates easily – the LSD that comes standard in the GT trim helps put every pound foot of twist to the pavement. Darting through the city and exploiting pockets in traffic is an absolute blast and you almost forget about the lack of power in the motor.
After all, this is the type of vehicle that’s more about maintaining speed as opposed to building speed. But every once in a while in the middle of a corner, or as you’re entering a highway on-ramp you can’t help but feel “how great would this car be with a bunch of extra torque?” The answer to that question is the turbocharged Fiat 124 Spider and its tuning potential.
At an as-tested price of $39,500 the MX-5 comes a sliver under the $40,000 mark. And if you were to only look at the price tag compared to its spec sheet, it’s not a whole lot of car – practicality – for the money. It’s down on power compared to its cheaper competitors, and it doesn’t even have a backup camera. But those who look at the MX-5 purely from a practical perspective, this isn’t the car for you.
This little roadster is for those who care about the road, those who are more than happy to take the long way home. Purchasing an MX-5 is a visceral decision, the moment the top drops and you hit the engine start button, all of the irrationality behind the Miata ethos disappears. There’s a grin you can’t shake off your face, and in my book, that’s worth every penny.
型号 Model: 2016 Mazda MX-5 GT
顏色 Paint Type: Soul Mica Red
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $39,200
試車售價 Price as Tested: $39,500
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,309
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,914 / 1,918 / 1,234
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,078
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre SkyActiv inline-four, DOHC 16-valve
最大馬力 Horsepower: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 8.8 / 6.9
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 205/45R17