Impressions from the ground
05 September 2014 / Words & Photos by Ben Sale
The new ND MX-5 is a car that you really have to see in person to fully appreciate, however the photos do give a good impression. The first thing that struck me when the lights came on was that this car is sexy, much more so than any of the MX-5s which have come before. Once I saw the car at ground level, rather than on stage, I was impressed by how well proportioned the ND is, the level of detail the designers have gone to and the street appeal it will have while not being too overstated or cartoonish. Personally, and of course subjectively, I think it's Mazda's best effort since the NA; looking back while moving forward. Below are some of the key things I noted while having a good look at the cars Mazda had at the reveal event.
Proportions, size and layout
The new car looks noticeably smaller and lower than the NC. Mazda have significantly reduced the length of the ND, however the width is very still similar to the NC. This gives it a wide, planted appearance when combined with the cars low belt line and the trick of painting the high points of the car black (standard on all NDs). Looking underneath the car I could glimpse that engine is positioned as far back in the chassis as possible (noticeably more so than previous models) helping further centralize the weight distribution. Combined with the wheels being in the far corners of the car and what surely must be a lower center of gravity, the ND should handle very precisely.
The front end
The front end to my eyes heavily references the original NA MX-5, specifically the low nose (especially for a modern design), wide intake opening and thin narrow headlights. The headlights are particularly interesting, designer Derek Jenkins was very keen to point out that the use of LED lighting (a first for Mazda) is what has allowed the size to reduce significantly while also increasing efficiency. Amazingly they are not much bigger than the parking light / indicator unit on the NA, yet output significantly more light than the old popups units, or for that matter any other MX-5 light.
The launch car driven out onto the stage was fitted with 195/50/16 tyres; a huge departure from the current trend of launching cars with huge wheels for visual appeal. The choice of 16 inches points to a very light wheel, reducing rotational mass, which is definitely a good thing. The second car Mazda had on display was fitted with 205/45/17s and according to Mazda both 16” and 17” wheels will be available. Also of note is that the wheels shown were 4 stud (as per NA & NB) rather than 5 stud (NC).
A new side indicator
It may seem trivial to highlight that the side indicator on a new model has changed; big deal… However, the circular indicator fitted to the 1989 NA remained unchanged until now. As it was the only part not to have changed on the whole car with the release of the NC it’s notable that it’s gone now. To be confirmed is whether the thread pitch on the gear lever has changed as this was the other carry over to the NC from the original model.
The rear end
This is the part of the car that seems to be the most divisive, however judgment should probably be reserved until seeing it in the flesh as some of the photos look nothing like the reality. To me the styling here is heavily influenced by the Ferrari California and Jaguar F-Type in the body tapering and tail lights. The boot lid and rear bumper is very similar to the current Alfa Spider. However, it should be noted that classic models from the 1960s influenced the styling of these designs three designs; and the original NA was influence by very similar classic European sports car designs. In person I like it a lot and think it works really well and will look great on the road.
At the launch event designer Derek Jenkins was very proud of the quality improvements in the new car’s interior finish. The new ND interior seems to be a mix of new Mazda 3 and upcoming Mazda 2 dash styling with the classic high center with a short shifter brought upon by the gearbox location. Of note is that all MX-5s will be fitted with the fixed touch screen entertainment system out of the Mazda 3. The system can also be controlled by a rotary knob near the gear stick. While some people dislike that the screen can’t be folded down similar layouts are starting to become more common on cars such as the new Mercedes C-Class as well as the Mazda 3. The body colored door tops will be a standard feature and don’t stand out as much as you would expect when viewed in person.
While we weren’t allowed to sit in the new car, Mazda say that despite the overall reduction in size interior accommodation is comparable to the NC. It appears that the car doesn’t have a conventional glove box (or if it does it’s very well hidden) instead relying on the storage area between the seats. Small details such as the positioning of the cup holders looked like an after-thought but to be honest I’m glad they obviously spent their time elsewhere!
Also of note was a sports switch below the gear shift (note that the new MX-5 is likely to feature electrically assisted steering rather than hydraulic like the new 3), a tyre pressure monitoring system set button (run flat tyres potentially?) and one marked RVS which is Mazda’s rear vision monitoring system (warning lights on the mirrors to indicate cars in blind spots.) The steering wheel buttons indicate that the MX-5 will be equipped with Bluetooth.
Finally the soft top looks to be integrated a bit more neatly than the NC’s. Mazda were not keen to discuss whether a retractable hard top version was under development. It also appears that a detachable hardtop will not be an option as the ND is not fitted with the striker plates required for one to attach.
I wanted to write a small bit about the aerodynamics as it looks like a lot of thought has gone into improving this aspect of the new MX-5. The ND is fitted with a small front splitter, subtle side skirts and the bottom is very flat. When asked about this Derek Jenkins proudly stated that the car has significantly more downforce than previous models. This will no doubt help at turn 1 of Phillip Island!
Derek Jenkins was also very keen to discuss the side profile and how the NA has heavily influenced it. He stated that he refrained from adding crease lines as per the modern trend to help create a more timeless classic and flowing look. Combined with the very low front end, curved front guards and pinched rear I think it works really well.
As this was the design reveal Mazda were not too keen to get into details about the car’s specification or price, they’ll get to that closer to the release date. A question about the boot size (Americans…) was humorously answered with “it has one” and Mazda were very keen for people not to touch or crawl over the car’s finer details such suspension and the engine bay. I can’t wait for everyone else to see it in the flesh when launched in Australia. If you like it in the pictures you’ll love it in reality, I did!