By Asian Journal Auto Editor

2018 MAZDA MX-5 PIC 1The Mazda MX-5 is the world’s most popular sports car if you add up the number sold in its almost 30-year history. With an exquisite chassis, superb handling and fun to drive quotient, the MX-5 has always been about the driving experience. For 2018-2019 model year. Mazda has introduced a number of improvements to response, performance, feel and efficiency, adhering to Mazda’s unique Jinba Ittai—”horse and rider as one”—engineering philosophy. The exterior remains the same as ever, a compact, sleek two-seater, but there is now an available brown canvas soft top, new black metallic 16 and 17 inch wheels, a new telescoping steering wheel, easier-to-open doors and revised door stop, cupholders and seat levers. The biggest improvements are under the skin. The MX-5’s SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine now produces 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm—a 17-percent improvement—and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, with a broader torque curve throughout MX-5’s entire rev range. The redline is now increased from 6,800 rpm to 7,500 rpm, while reconfigured intake ports and new high-diffusion, higher-pressure fuel injectors improve efficiency and torque at all rpm. The final drive ratio has been increased from 3.454 to 3.583, to improve driver response. Gear ratios are otherwise unchanged from the previous model. There is also a new exhaust system with a more urgent exhaust note. New driver features now offer Traffic Sign Recognition and Smart City Brake Support in addition to other i-ACTIVSENSE safety technologies found throughout various trim levels. On the safety front, the 2019 MX-5 will be sold with a new rearview camera.

2018-Mazda-MX-5 PIC 2We tested a high spec 2018 GT version, priced at a base $39,300. Standard features included:   17″ alloy wheels, sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, limited slip differential, strut tower bar, Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Control System, LED headlights with LED signature lighting, LED rear combination lights, auto headlight levelling, LED DRLs, auto on/off headlights, 7″ colour touchscreen display with Mazda Connect, HMI Commander, navigation, Bose premium audio system with 9 speakers (including driver and passenger headrest speakers and subwoofer), USB (2) and auxiliary inputs, push button start, advanced keyless entry system, air conditioning with automatic controls, rain-sensing wipers.

The only options on our tester were the Dark Cherry convertible roof, Machine Grey Metallic paint for a price of $40,000 for the GT. Add PDE $1,795 and the final tally came to $41,795. As usual it’s a snug, almost moulded to-fit cabin with absolutely everything in reach. Comfortable seats, excellent visibility and soft top roof can be folded down with one hand operation.

On the road, with the top down, and on a long straight road with fast corners, the Mazda MX5 is designed for pure motoring fun. The extra power has certainly addressed previous criticisms that the car was underpowered. The higher RPM limit also makes things sportier, and the sweet, short gear shift changes make light work of the uprated power delivery. The Mazda’s extras grunt allows for better acceleration and a wonderful zippy feeling as you work the slick gear shifter and well-weighted clutch. The rev remapping also means gear changes are rewarded by a delightful burst of extra speed as you snick through them. The exhaust note is now having a richer, louder raspier note than before adding some extra frisson to the driving experience. The Mazda MX-5 is one of the lightest sports cars in the market and with this is mind it performs wonderfully with brilliant handling. It drifts beautifully into corners with little roll, meanwhile braking is also exemplary. The MX-5 feels bullet proof with the top up or down. Negatives are few – If you are very tall and hefty, the snug cabin may be super tight for you, after all this is a small car, but apart from that, the Mazda MX-5 is the ultimate two-seater sports car.  An automotive icon that keeps getting better with every generation.

2018 Mazda MX-5 GT base priced from: $39,300. Price as tested:  $41,795. With options and PDE.