just-auto.com

Torque boost makes Mazda MX-5 even more desirable

By Glenn Brooks | 26 June 2019

Pricing for the MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) starts at £23,095

Pricing for the MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) starts at £23,095

View 1 related image

The MX-5 is now four years old but Mazda hasn't yet felt the need to refresh the looks. The engine line-up though, has been altered with both 1.5- and 2.0-litre engines gaining power and torque as well as compliancy with the Euro 6d Temp emissions standard.

How is 2019 shaping up for Mazda worldwide?

Mazda is having something of a mixed results year so far. In China, wholesale deliveries of locally built models crashed by 46 per cent to 70,013 vehicles for the year to the end of May. Japan hasn't been as bad but nonetheless, volume has fallen by 11 per cent to 90,107. Still, the brand retains its traditional seventh position, well ahead of Subaru, which has dipped by an identical percentage (to 57,437 passenger vehicles).

There has been better news in Europe (as defined by ACEA), sales rising by 10 per cent and market share moving up to 1.4 per cent from 1.2 per cent in May 2018. Year to date deliveries have dipped by exactly one per cent, with the overall market down by two per cent. Volume over the first five months was an impressive 103,138 vehicles, not quite enough to beat JLR but that's something which Mazda managed to do in May, the numbers being 19,525 and 17,443. The total was also more than double what Honda was able to achieve (9,135, -18 per cent). Britain remains a strong country for Mazda Motor Europe, its registrations rising by nine per cent in May to 2,621 vehicles even as the overall market declined by five per cent.

The USA remains the company's best market, deliveries so far for 2019 numbering 115,727, a year-on-year fall of 15.5 per cent. The problem isn't so much the age of any vehicle but more the aggressive war of incentives being waged by larger OEMs plus the decline of car sales in general. A new 6 sedan, a refreshed CX-9 and then a CX-3 replacement are expected to arrive with the next 3-12 months so dealers need not despair. The brand is also especially strong in many key segments and it shouldn't be forgotten that there is still a lot good business in cars, not just in crossovers and SUVs.

2019 MX-5 - what's new?

The new-shape 3 is of course the big news for Mazda's 2019 model year car range but the revised MX-5 is important too, especially when it comes to image. Called MX-5 Miata in its best market, the USA, Roadster in Japan and MX-5 in most other countries, it's a great differentiator for the brand.

Britain has always been a popular destination for MX-5 exports and the latest model is no exception. The fabric roof roadster sells moderately well here with the RF - Retractable Fastback (electric targa hardtop) - being the preference of the majority of buyers.

This fourth generation model remains as appealing as ever. The trademark slick gearchange, kart-like steering and small dimensions make this one of the most entertaining cars on the market. Of course, the inherent compromises also make the MX-5 something which has to remain out of reach for many who would otherwise love to own one. Not pricing, which is quite reasonable, but the two-seat layout and interior which is tight for anyone above average height.

Roadster or electric hard-top

Mazda has given the latest roadster and RF some useful updates such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel. The last of these makes it easier for anyone with long legs to sit in the driver's seat. I invited a friend who's six foot two to take a seat and sadly for him, there still wasn't quite enough room.

The Retractable Fastback with the 1.5-litre engine was the car which Mazda UK supplied for a test. I hear great things about the bigger engine but there's not much wrong with the 120kW (160PS) alternative, not to mention better fuel economy, which in my hands was 42mpg. The little 1.5 loves to be revved and sounds terrific as it approaches the rev limiter. It's worth pointing out too that neither engine is turbocharged, something which is becoming increasingly novel.

In Britain, buyers have quite a wide range of choice and for many, pricing which starts at under twenty thousand pounds makes the 1.5-litre cars the ones to have.

What's next for the MX-5?

The fifth generation will probably be released in 2023. As per the current car, the next one should be manufactured in Japan for eight years with a facelift at the four-year mark. The existing platform may be retained, albeit in updated form although some believe there could well be a fresh architecture.

As for whether or not FCA will be provided with replacements for the Fiat 124 Spider and Abarth 124 Spider, Mazda Motor's CEO Akira Murumoto stated in a December 2018 interview that it was too early to say. He added that the Roadster/MX-5 would always be the company's own design and not a joint venture.

There is a chance that this vehicle might be available with the six-cylinder petrol engine which Mazda disclosed last month that it is developing. The straight six will be mounted longitudinally in a new architecture.

Judging by what has happened to the previous two MX-5s at the half way point of their production cycles, the 2020 facelift of the current car is unlikely to include major sheetmetal changes. Instead, we should expect the headlights and tail lights to be replaced and probably the bumper covers.