Round 4 for Mazda’s best-seller – the MX-5

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LINES THAT WON’T SHOW THEIR AGE: This the fourth version of Mazda’s MX-5 has scorned gimmicks and fancy trim and stuck to classic sports-car styling. Even in 20 years, it won’t look old. Image: Quickpic / Mazda

Mazda’s MX-5 has never been an “aggressive” car, if you’ll forgive me for stooping to the level of people who use the adjective to describe an object that’s utterly passive unless there is an idiot human at the wheel.

I’m amazed that some automakers continue to use the word to market their products in these days of alcohol-fuelled road-rage and record numbers of road deaths. So do some motoring writers – “the car’s aggressive looks / grille / exhaust” etc.

I’m also amazed that the car is only R1000 more than the previous model.

Whatever, right from when first Mazda Miata (as the car as then called) arrived in South Africa in, I think, 1991 after its launch at the 1989 Chicago auto show as a then modern successor to the Triumph Spitfire, Lotus Elan and Alfa Romeo Spider, it was perceived as a ‘safe’ sports car.

I’ve driven the new one, and it still is.

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DISAPPEARING TOP: It’s not powered or automatic but even a slightly-built person, thanks to clever spring-loading, will be able to raise/lower it. Image: Quickpic / Mazda

It’s fast enough to be fun in skilled hands though a bit tight for long-legged drivers, as I found out while helping to move pre-delivery units earlier in October. The cloth roof is not power-assisted but clever springing means it is easy to raise/lower, even for a slight female driver.

Alfa, by the way has just launched its version of the MX-5 in a joint production effort by the two companies – badged once again as the Alfa Spider.

The Mazda will continue, I understand, to be sold in the US (its biggest market) as the Miata.

The second generation, now badged MX-5, arrived in 1999, followed by a facelift in 2008 and then various special editions through to 2013 though Mazda pretty much disappeared from the South African market after splitting with sister company Ford.

The brand returned, officially and breathing fire, only in 2014.

So, this all-new Mazda MX-5 will continue as the best-selling roadster in auto history; indeed, this latest model seems likely to take the global total since 1990 to beyond a million.

Mazda SA sAys this the fourth generation of the MX-5 “delivers a perfect balance of Mazda’s driving fun with comfort and convenience, all in an assertively charming design”.

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FORGET ALL THE FANCY BITS: The MX-5’s two-litre 118kw/200Nm has a 13:1 compression ratio and drives a slick six-speed manual transmission. Image: Quickpic / Mazda

It’s also the most fuel-efficient to date with a promise of 6.7 litres/100km through its SkyActiv technology – another benefit of shunning the muscular mass of large and more powerful sports cars

The car is once again front/mid-engined and rear-wheel drive with a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and short overhangs, and the lowest centre of gravity yet. The chassis, Mazda adds, has been redesigned to further improve the car’s agility.


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David Hughes, MD of Mazda Southern Africa, told The Corner in a media release: “Over the past quarter century the demands for greater environmental friendliness and safety have grown increasingly more stringent.

“Each of the previous three generations (including the first, neatly and unforgettably named Miata, a name that has stuck despite the automaker’s South African marketers adherence to the MX-5 badge – Ed.) has seen slight increases in body size and weight in response to these demands.

“In developing the fourth-generation MX-5, Mazda returned to the original aims of the first generation that restored the ‘light sports-car’ culture then took on the challenge of embodying the fundamental pleasure of driving it in a product suited to 21st-century needs.

“The result is the most compact body of any MX-5 generation.”

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CROSS-TOWN, CROSS-COUNTRY: The new Mazda MX-5 is equipped for either – fast, undeniably sporty and with a cabin that fits like a (leather) glove. Image: Quickpic / Mazda

The all new Mazda MX-5, the automaker says, has been designed for and is built to the highest standards of performance and reliability. “This standard is backed by a three-year unlimited distance factory warranty, three years of roadside assistance, a three-year service plan and a five-year no-corrosion warranty.

There is just one model in South Africa – a two-litre (118kW at 6000rpm / 200Nm at 4600rpm with 13:1 compression ratio) soft-top convertible roadster with a six-speed manual gearbox and it costs R389 800. A 1.5 is available in other markets.

FULL HOUSE OF ‘EXTRAS’ ALL IN THE PRICE

Standard is a full house of useful features: keyless entry and push-button start, front and side crash bags, Bluetooth, auto aircon and cruise control with audio/cruise buttons on the steering-wheel, internet radio, daytime running lights, diode headlights, hill-start assistance, black leather upholstery, nine-speaker Bose audio with multifunction controls through a colour screen, heatable powered exterior mirrors, auto wipers and headlights and 17” alloy wheel rims.

At 8.5cm less than four metres long, the MX-5 has a classic Sixties British sports-car look – but with modern styling sweeps and external fittings and the roof, when dropped stows into a streamlined silhouette.

Despite its closeness to the tar, Mazda has managed to make access easier than the previous model with special shaping to the lower doors and to the sills – each flattened to accommodate a hand to help occupants up from the low seats.

And at the price… the car is a bargain. Get one quick! Though another 50 are expected early in 2016. And an auto is in the pipeline.

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EVOLUTION IS REAL! The 2015 Mazda MX-5 / Miata is a thoroughly modern version of its predecessors. It will for sure become a collectors’ car, just as earlier versions have become. Beautiful, simply. Image: Quickpic / Mazda
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