Mazda’s roadster ages like a fine wine
Mazda has confirmed that the future iteration of the MX-5 will possess some form of electrification. This provides enthusiasts with added incentive to enjoy the high-revving, naturally aspirated gasoline-fed Miatas while they still can, and the latest model might represent the best version of the convertible yet.
The fourth generation of the ND (chassis code) is now six years old, though it looks just as good as the day it debuted. Nothing else on the market comes close in terms of fun to cost ratio, especially following the semi-recent refresh back in 2019.
Engineers retuned the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre four-cylinder mill — utilizing smaller and lighter pistons, optimized valves and fuel injectors, a dual-mass flywheel, fresh exhaust system and a higher transmission final drive ratio — to create 17-per-cent extra horsepower. Currently rated at 181, and featuring a slightly richer curve to boot, the driving experience is a bit more pleasant all around. Though 26 additional horsepower may be a modest number, any increase is simply icing on the cake in regards to the already nimble and balanced current MX-5. Remember too, surprisingly, the ND is 35 millimetres shorter than the original 1989 NA offering and yet weighs only about 60 kilograms more.
Sure, under normal day-to-day use in the city the changes will feel minor. Hit the highway or local racetrack and wind the engine up to the higher 7,500 rpm redline (vs. 6,800 previously) and the story changes, the performance bump becoming evident.
Aside from performance upgrades, there are a few enhancements elsewhere around the vehicle. The doors open easier than before, and the door stops, cup holders, seat levers and steering wheel have been redesigned, including the telescoping mechanism on the steering wheel to give 42 millimetres of travel.
One step up from base, Darpan’s well-equipped manual transmission GS-P trim press loaner had goodies like a limited slip differential, Bilstein dampers, front shock tower brace and sport suspension installed. The Sport Package (+$4,400) bundles gorgeous 17-inch BBS forged aluminum wheels in gunmetal colour, heated Recaro seats and red painted calipers.
The in-cabin experience remains pretty much the same as always. Settling into the seat is still somewhat akin to sitting in a race car, the bolsters molding around the body and the controls mounted at the perfect distance so that manipulating them becomes effortless. New for 2021 is a wireless version of Apple CarPlay eliminating the need for a USB cable to connect a mobile device to the infotainment system.
Of course, creating the ideal ergonomic passenger compartment does have caveats — for example storage space is very limited, restricted to a couple of shallow console storage spaces. No door pockets exist. The removable cup holders behind the centre console are also cumbersome and can get in the way of shifting.
The MX-5 exhaust note is quite humble when compared to other sports cars, even with the revised exhaust setup, but a nice little burble is nevertheless produced upon acceleration. It sounds equally pleasing, never obnoxiously or droning, when the motor is pushed into the increased rpm range.
As good as the new Miata is, perhaps nothing is more impressive than the stellar fuel efficiency of SKYACTIV technology — no matter how much I wrung out the vehicle I still averaged 9.0 L/100 km in mixed city and highway conditions.
The 2021 Mazda MX-5 GS-P starts at $37,200.
Motor: 2.0-litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 181 @ 7,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 151 @ 4,000 rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 9.0 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed