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First drive: Revised Mazda MX-5 touches down

New face: The revised MX-5 has – among other things – subtly different frontal styling that will tide it over until the all-new version arrives in 2014.

Mazda makes a series of small changes to keep iconic MX-5 roadster in the game


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30 Oct 2012

MAZDA’S subtly updated MX-5 convertible has arrived in showrooms, fresh from its local debut at this month’s Australian International Motor Show.

The release marks the second and final facelift for the current-generation MX-5 first launched in 2005 (the other occurred in 2009), with an all-new model to emerge in 2014 employing Mazda’s full arsenal of SkyActiv body, chassis and engine technology.

Priced from $47,280 plus on-road costs for the base Roadster Coupe folding hardtop or $49,885 for the premium Roadster Coupe Sports, the facelifted model is $80 pricier than before.

Mazda quietly discontinued the $44,265 fabric-roof version earlier this year due to slow sales – fewer than five per cent of MX-5s sold had this feature – marking the first time the MX-5 had not been available here as a soft-top since the release of the first-generation in 1989.

The facelifted model is again not offered with a fabric roof.

The standard power retractable hardtop launched in 2006 is 37kg heavier than the soft-top, but boot space is unchanged at 150 litres and weight distribution remains 50:50.

Now in its third generation (the first generation appeared in 1989 and the second in 1998), the MX-5 is officially the biggest-selling open two-seat sportscar in history, with more than 920,000 global sales to date, including 16,000 in Australia.

The list of changes to the facelifted model is small, but includes a 47mm-longer new-look front bumper with new foglight bezels and chin spoiler, as well as glossy dark grey interior decoration panels instead of matte dark silver.

Mechanically, Mazda says there is sharper throttle response in six-speed manual versions, a recalibrated braking system that is easier to modulate and minor weight savings in the wiring harness and front bumper.

The discs are an unchanged at 200mm at the front and 280mm at the rear, while kerb weight is 1167kg for the Roadster Coupe and 1169kg for the Coupe Sports (the automatic transmission adds a further 10kg).

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine in unchanged, still producing 118kW at 7000rpm and 188Nm at 5000rpm, matched to a six-speed manual gearbox, or six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for an extra $2125. Peak power arrives at 6700rpm with the auto.

Both automatic and manual versions consume a claimed 8.1 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle, but only manual versions come with a limited slip differential.

As ever, the MX-5 features a front-engine/rear-drive layout, hydraulic steering, double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, and an extra-stiff powerplant frame in the transmission tunnel to suppress chassis deformation when cornering.

Standard features on all variants include 17-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured power mirrors, a chrome exhaust tip, cruise control, drilled aluminium pedals and footrest, silver seat-back bars and leather seats, steering wheel, gearshift knob and handbrake handle.

Also included is a 200-Watt premium seven-speaker Bose sound system (no touchscreen) with a six-disc CD stacker, auxiliary input (3.5mm MP3 player-compatible) and steering wheel with audio and cruise control switches.

The flagship Coupe Sports variant adds Recaro seats and BBS alloy wheels.

Both variants again feature dual front and side airbags only.

MX-5 program manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto said the roadster market had changed a great deal in the 23 years since the first-generation appeared, with buyers more environmentally aware and interested in safety.

“Within this period, various lightweight sportscars have appeared on the market only to disappear again, yet the MX-5 continues to hold a special place in the hearts of car enthusiasts around the world,” he said.

“What we aimed for most with this upgraded MX-5 was to bring even greater pleasure, to viewing the styling, touching the surfaces, and of course to the driving experience.

“In terms of touching and styling, we evolved the design of the front view to convey a more aggressive look, which also contributes to aerodynamic performance.”2012 Mazda MX-5 pricing*
Roadster Coupe$47,280
Roadster Coupe Sports$49,885
*Plus on-road costs

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