A quarter of a century after the first MX-5 was revealed to the public, Mazda pulled the covers off the hotly anticipated new car. As the latest take on the world's best selling sports car and following in the tyre tracks of three generations with over 950,000 sales, this all new model certainly has some big shoes to fill.
Headline attributes that'll grab attention include a focus on weight saving, a general slimming down, and most intriguingly for us, priority for fun and Jinba Ittai (roughly translated into 'horse and rider as one'). This encouraging list of characteristics suggest this new roadster could continue to be very evo friendly indeed.
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We'll talk about the performance in a bit, however, because the first thing that grabs our attention when the thin veil is pulled off of the new car, is that the 2015 MX-5 is noticeably smaller than the car it replaces.
Chassis and design
With a wheelbase some 15mm shorter and overall length a significant 105mm shorter, the MX-5 features short overhangs whilst growing 10mm in width, giving the car a footprint poised for performance driving. In actual fact, the car is more compact than the first generation MX-5.
The new model also sits some 20mm lower than the previous car, squatting on its small 16-inch wheels with a low slung nose, emphasising that this is no hairdresser's posing machine but rather a proper sporting roadster.
The car is handsome too. Whilst it lacks the sex appeal of an Alfa Romeo 4C, bulging arches, a gaping grille and angular headlights are all pleasing to the eye, carrying Mazda's latest Kodo design language albeit in a slightly more evocative manner.
Inside the car’s dash is slim and features a central touch screen, taking place of cluttering buttons. Much of the layout looks almost identical to what you’d find in a Mazda 3 and 6, though the low seating position, pedal box placement and angle of the controls are slightly more driver focused.
Though we won’t get to drive the car for some time, chassis details at least give us an idea of how it might perform. The new car weighs over 100kg less than the last, bringing it to a figure just a whisker over a ton. Sitting on double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear, and featuring specifically tuned electric steering, Mazda promises that the new MX-5 will be an even sharper steer than the car it replaces.
Mazda has confirmed that the more powerful 2-litre models (more on them later), will sit on sports suspension with Bilstein dampers, a limited-slip differential strut tower bar.
Moving the engine as far back as possible has pulled the car’s centre of gravity inwards, whilst the use of aluminium for the bonnet, boot lid, front wing and front and rear bumper inserts has helped to reduce weight at either end of the car.
Speaking exclusively to evo, Kevin Rice, Mazda’s Design Director, said ‘we went back to the original concept, prioritising making the car as lightweight as possible. Saving weight was not just to improve ultimate performance, it’s also about people being able to drive the car easily, with confidence.’
Engineers and designers have worked hard to cleverly distribute weight around the car, resulting in a perfect 50:50 front-rear weight distribution. Small details like the shrinking of the wheels by two inches helped save around 2kg of unsprung mass on each corner.
‘We focused on saving weight to improve feel,’ explained Rice. ‘We lowered the engine to lower the centre of gravity, shortened the length and made it wider to improve handling. We’ve also managed to work the weight to give the car a perfectly balanced setup.’
Engine and gearbox
Under the bonnet will be a choice of engines from Mazda's Skyactiv-G family. With high compression levels and clever cam timing controls, the Skyactiv engines produce respectable amounts of power without concession to forced induction. This means the MX-5's powerplant should feel as quick and efficient as a small boosted unit, but as free revving and engaging as a proper N/A engine.
Mazda has confirmed at the Paris motor show that European buyers will get a 1.5-litre Skyactiv engine while their American counterparts will be able to buy a 2.0-litre unit. The 1.5 will produce 129bhp and pump out 139g/km of CO2. The 2-litre will produce 158bhp and emit 161g/km of CO2.
Power will be sent to the rear wheels through a manual six-speed ‘box, Mazda insisting the inclusion of a manual gear lever is essential in a proper driver’s car. An automated six-speed with steering wheel paddles will be available as an option in some markets.
The new Mazda MX-5 will be priced between £18,495 and £23,295 and will make its UK debut at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed in June. It will be available in five specification levels - SE, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and Sport Nav. Order books open on 27 April.