By Asian Journal Auto Editor
The 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. In 2019 Mazda 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 remain 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.
High spec versions such as the GT model offer such features as: 17” alloy wheels, 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.
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 has 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. 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque may not see like a lot, but when you take into account it weighs just 2,300 pounds, it’s more than adequate. Plus, it can dash from 0-60 in only 5.7 seconds, It drifts beautifully into corners with little roll. It’s for pure driving pleasure on curvy backroads as you feel the suspension gracefully soak up the curves as you pilot the car down the road with its incredibly precise steering feel. 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. And while the trunk is small, it does have enough space for a couple of squishy, so pack light. Apart from that, the Mazda MX-5 is the ultimate two-seater sports car. An automotive icon that keeps getting better with every generation.
2020 Mazda MX-5 GT base priced from: $33,100.
Price as tested: $35,400. Including freight and PDE.