Ask most car enthusiasts what the best affordable all-round sports car is, and invariably the answer is the Mazda MX-5. Since 1989, the diminutive roadster has won fans the world over thanks to its entertaining drive, drop-top roof and fantastically inexpensive ownership proposition. Now the Japanese manufacturer has lifted the covers off an all-new version.
Showing off Mazda's 'Kodo' design philosophy, the new MX-5 presents a sharper and more sculpted aesthetic compared to the rather cuddly-looking model it replaces.
This fourth generation model is a completely clean-sheet design, featuring a brand new chassis – with rear-wheel-drive, as ever – and greatly reduced kerb weight.
This is a result of the company's SkyActiv technology, which has wrought efficiency-maximising features throughout the car. Contributing to the considerable 100kg weight saving over the outgoing model, the bonnet, boot lid and front wings are now constructed from aluminium, while a lighter fabric has been used in the soft folding roof.
The weight saving has also had the benefit of lowering the car's centre of gravity, all of which allows the MX-5 to adhere to Mazda's 'Jinba Ittai' ethos – literally translated as 'rider and horse as one'. It's this approach that has seen the MX-5 become a driver's icon and a huge sales success throughout its history, which looks set to continue with this new model.
Specification and performance figures are yet to be confirmed, but it is likely that the new MX-5 will be available with a choice of two SkyActiv petrol engines: 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre units. Both are currently available in the brand's hatchback offerings, and are expected to develop 140bhp and 180bhp respectively in the MX-5. Expect a manual gearbox to be offered as standard with an automatic available as an option.
As ever with the MX-5, it is its handling balance that is critical, rather than outright speed. To ensure a thoroughly engaging driving experience, the new model has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, as well as a lower seating position, to put drivers in the best possible place to have some fun behind the wheel.
Sinking into the cabin, drivers will find an upshift in material quality, though the cabin does follow in previous generations' example by being relatively simple and uncluttered. A new infotainment screen, lifted from the Mazda 3 hatchback, now sits atop the dashboard and is controlled by a rotary dial next to the handbrake.
"Mazda's current winning streak is driven by our highly acclaimed new models, and the all-new MX-5 should only add fuel to the growth engine," says Mazda Motor Europe President and CEO Jeff Guyton. "Built for the love of driving, this car underscores what Mazda is all about. It will certainly give our brand an added boost."
Alongside the soft-top model, a version with a metal folding roof will eventually also be offered. Prices will start from around £20,000 when the MX-5 reaches showrooms in 2015.