5-litre unit and the 160PS 2. 0-litre powerplant – seem to offer modest performance stats on paper. On the road though, a real roadster experience awaits, this MK4 model feeling sharper and more eager through the turns thanks to a dietary development programme which has seen over 100kgs trimmed from the kerbweight. The freshly-developed electric power steering system plays its part too, offering great feedback between rubber and road and ensuring that you’re encouraged to make the very most from performance on offer that sees this 2. 0-litre model make 62mph from rest in 7. 3s en route to 133mph.
Users of this variant get the option of paying extra for this top ‘Sport’ version which gets a few extra dynamic aids – sports suspension, stiffer Bilstein dampers and a limited slip differential for extra traction. You don’t really need any of this though, to have fun in this car. Indeed, when it comes to suspension, the suppler set-up of the standard models is arguably preferable. The wonderfully incisive short-shift SKYACTIV-MT six-speed manual transmission is another key contributor to the whole experience - which is just as well as you’ll be shunting the stubby lever around the ‘box rather a lot to get the most out of those revvy little engines.
Shorter, lower and wider than before, this is the most compact MX-5 ever made. For us, it’s also the best-looking example of the breed so far, with perfectly balanced proportions and beautiful detailing that conveys motion, even at a standstill. The emotive shape has more aggression this time round – and a greater sense of energy too – but you’d always recognise it as an MX-5, the design still true to the classic roadster principles of a long bonnet, a rear-set cabin and a short tail.
Time to take a seat behind the wheel, where the challenge has been to keep the MX-5’s traditional ergonomic simplicity but match it to modern levels of quality, equipment, refinement and comfort.
You quickly get the whole Mazda ‘Jinba Ittai’ ‘driver-and-car-as-one’ thing – the way the driving position has been created to make you feel a part of this MX-5. We also like the flourishes of aluminium used on the airvents and door handles – and the way that the exterior body colour flows elegantly over the door on plusher models like this one.
Move out back and on the face of things, trunk capacity looks to have been a casualty of Mazda’s move to down-size this car, having fallen by 20-litres to just 130-litres in this MK4 model. The Japanese designers though, beg to differ, claiming that to compensate, this area has been redesigned for greater usability.
For the final word on this fourth generation MX-5, let’s turn to the first thoughts of Designer Masashi Nakayama when he sat down to create it. This, he decided, must be a car its customers would want to hold on to – ‘one that could be driven for twenty years’. Nakayama imagined himself as the owner of such a machine and simply hated the idea of eventually becoming bored of it. ‘The thought of this was just too sad’, he says. ‘I wanted this to be a car I would love for a very long time, just as I do the original MX-5’.
Not everyone gets the MX-5 experience of course. It certainly won’t appeal to those prioritising power. Or people needing the practicality of a hot hatch or a sports coupe. At the other extreme, a specialist sportscar maker could offer you a more intense experience, though one that for the most part would be largely irrelevant for public road use. That’s where this Mazda excels. You don’t need a test track, a racing driver’s touch or a lottery winner’s wallet with this car. Just a back-to-basics love of driving. The way it ought to be.