Car reviews - Mazda - MX-5 - Roadster Coupe
30 Mar 2007
By CHRIS HARRIS
THE evolution of the Mazda MX-5 has arrived with the Roadster Coupe – the first model available with an integrated electronically controlled folding roof.
Mazda denies that it has been forced to "keep up with the Joneses" or that it has deviated from the MX-5’s original philosophy of creating an inexpensive, lightweight sports car with the Roadster Coupe.
Instead, it says it has developed a more secure and practical alternative that will broaden the appeal of its cult car.
Mercedes-Benz was the first car-maker to blur the lines between a traditional convertible and a sports coupe with its original SLK roadster in 1997. Since then, a host of manufacturers have followed its lead, the likes of which extend from cut-price cuties like the Holden Tigra through to exclusive high-end exotics like the Mercedes-Benz SL.
Mazda claims the Roadster Coupe was developed as an integral pillar of its third-generation NC-series MX-5, although it required more slightly more development time than the soft-top to ensure it met the strict criteria set out by program manager, Takeo Kajima – the father of the cult car.
"We wanted this car from the beginning," he told GoAuto at the launch of the Roadster Coupe in Queensland last week.
"It is very important to increase the appeal of MX-5 even further.
"We still have soft-top for fun drivers, and now Roadster Coupe for new drivers."
Mazda believes the soft-top will still appeal to enthusiastic owners who appreciate its lightweight simplicity, while the Roadster Coupe will attract more discerning owners who demand the greater flexibility and security offered by the folding hardtop roof.
In fact, Mazda believes, particularly now that the initial rush for the NC soft-top has been met, that the Roadster Coupe will make up 60 per cent of all MX-5 sales in the future.
Which is not an unreasonable proposition considering the Roadster Coupe not only has the convenience of the folding roof, but there is marginal performance loss as it weighs only 37kg more than the soft-top and it also comes standard with the luxury leather trim and high-powered Bose sound system.
The Roadster Coupe costs $47,660 for the six-speed manual, with the only option being the six-speed automatic - which takes it to $49,835. This represents a $4790 premium over the entry-level MX-5 soft-top.
The Roadster Coupe shares the same mechanical package as the soft-top, powered by a 2.0-litre Mazda-developed four-cylinder engine with dual sequential valve timing that produces 118kW at 6700rpm and 188Nm of torque at 5000rpm.
Located behind the front axle for 50:50 weight distribution, the engine drives the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or a six-speed Activematic transmission. The drivetrain is cradled in a stiff transmission tunnel that is derived from the RX-8 for greater rigidity.
The manual has a limited-slip rear differential while the automatic has steering wheel-mounted gearchange paddles and buttons.
The suspension has been slightly tweaked to cater for the weight increase, with a larger front stabiliser bar and retuned rear springs and dampers.
But it’s the roof that really sets this car apart from its soft-top sibling.
It only takes 12 seconds for the car to morph from a roadster into a coupe – which Mazda claims is the best in the business – and, having been developed as part of the program from the outset, is the first of the folding roof cars to not impede on the boot space when the roof is down.
Mazda claims the Roadster Coupe still provides the full 150-litre boot capacity in either configuration.
The three-piece roof is constructed from a fibre/plastic composite outer skin and high-strength glassfibre-reinforced polypropylene inner panels and is just 20mm thick and weighs only 18kg more than the soft-top roof.
The extra weight is courtesy of the four electric motors, steel – rather than aluminium - bootlid and structural reinforcements required.
It is controlled by buttons on the top-centre section of the dashboard, and can only be activated while the car is stationary.
Visually, the Roadster Coupe only differs in the rear section of the vehicle, where the decklid is 40mm higher, resulting in redesigned rear guards and a tapered bootlid to ensure the overall design remained fluid.
For train-spotters, the high-mounted stop light on the Roadster Coupe has a white lens rather than the red on the soft-top.
It comes fully-loaded with a long feature list that includes air-conditioning, power windows, a six-CD Bose sound system, cruise control, dual front and side airbags and dynamic stability control and traction control.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
Did you know?There has been another metal-roofed MX-5 called the Type-S. With curves mimicking the larger MX-6 coupe, the Type-S was a Japan-only variant available from 2003.
All car reviews
Click to share