The latest generation of the world’s favourite sports car was revealed simultaneously in the California, Barcelona and Japan today (Sept 4). The global excitement was comparable with the launch of a new iPhone, and lots of flashing lights, grinning executives and a concert by Duran Duran came before the wraps-off moment.
Close to a million Mazda MX-5s have been sold worldwide since it arrived in 1989 (as the Miata in the States and Eunos Roadster in Japan). Back then, the public had been starved of an affordable open-top sports car since the death of the MGB. This is its fourth generation, but like Dr Who, the regenerated Mazda has always kept its essential character under the skin.
We’re promised it has again, and it will be as much fun as ever, living up to the slogan of ‘horse and rider as one’. Driving a Ferrari on the road rather than a track can be surprisingly dull, because it feels as though you’re doing 25mph at 70. The MX-5 is the opposite, it feels sporty at 25, and it will make you grin even if you’re just off to the shops.
Mazda has always resisted the temptation to make it more powerful in order to keep insurance and fuel costs low. Simplicity is part of its DNA, so although the engine details haven’t been revealed, we expect it to be efficient and punchy, but not blistering.
Big mouth strikes again
As for the look, the cuteness of past models has been replaced by more modern and a slightly more aggressive styling. The rear sweeps up like a mini F-type Jag, and the side profile has a bit of a ‘Coke bottle’ waist, simple and quite sexy. Personally, I’m not keen on the big, scooping mouth; although quite fashionable at the moment, it reminds me of a bottom-feeding fish.
Every generation has its fans. I adore the very first, which was always retro and is now even more so, evoking sports cars of the 1960s such as the Lotus Elan. The second generation was more fussy and feminine, the third simple in styling but a little executive in character for my liking. The good news is that there are plenty of all generations available for reasonable prices. This is partly because they’re proved so reliable, and because everyone loves them – and have bought a lot of them. The arrival of the new model will push pre-loved prices down a notch, so if you don’t fancy this one, you can grab an older bargain.
I’m also seriously looking forward to seeing the Alfa version of this car, but it’s not likely to be revealed until next year.
But more than that, I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of this one.
I wrote a book about the MX-5 in 2002, did a major revision in 2006 and a major rewrite, adding the third generation in 2008. Sadly it's out of print, but turns up at autojumbles. See MX-5/Miata Enthusiasts' Guide