New style, but true to the recipe of the roadster, the Japanese car finds its roots again with authentic flavors

New style, but true to the recipe of the roadster, the Japanese car finds its roots again with authentic flavors

Myth, this word is often overused, particularly for cars. Only a few really deserve such a title, but one that is definitely worthy is the Mazda MX-5, which is now in its fourth generation and celebrating 25 years since birth. After a long wait it is ready or almost ready to satisfy the crave for driving, real driving. And proposed to me by the Miata - the model name given for the North American market – is to induce a loss of control of the jaw and commence salivating.

Goes without saying

Whoever owns, is acquainted with or wishes for a Mazda MX-5 probably already knows it all, but I’ll summarize its new features: it is 10 cm shorter, 100 kg lighter, 50/50 weight distribution, but even more concentrated inside the wheelbase, the center of gravity is even lower. In four words: back to the roots, but only conceptually, because shapes are totally new and, in some ways, even surprising. We saw several studies in the last few years and many of us said, “so that’s going to be the next MX-5”. Well, now I can say that they had fooled us all, because the new MX-5, the real one, does contain many references to the past, but it apes none of the previous generations and courageously faces the theme of the roadster in its most classic form, in a way that’s free from prejudice and from fear of quoting from the most beautiful cars from UK and Italy.

The honesty of being an MX-5

This is why I find this MX-5 honest as well as beautiful. My first impression was sharpness: ‘they took an ax and hacked off its overhangs and blunted its four corners’, but I was wrong: it's as if they dried it up, removed anything unnecessary, dress engine and wheels as fittingly as possible. And what’s best is that it is smooth, and in between surfaces there are curves and softness, resulting from a stylistic wisdom that goes back to the other Mazda models but with its own personality. This is a designer’s Nirvana, not a result obtained by someone who, banking on a strong brand, takes it easy with the pantograph. On the front I see more of Italy, with that wave riding as a rib up on the front wheel and then sloping down the side, while the rear gives more credit to the perfidious Albion. Still, what I like the best about this car is that you rarely find a better synthesis between shape and function, as it should be in the case of a true and honest sports car.

Under the dress a beautiful body

What makes a car a real sports car? It’s a matter of design, sensitivity and culture, all things which in Mazda there’s certainly no shortage of, and that makes designers and engineers able to share the same vision. Masashi Nakayama – the designer of the new MX-5 who arrived at Mazda in 1989, which happens to be the year when it was born, used the analogy: "We are like a football team. Only one of us kicks the ball to the goal, but without the defenders we could not look ahead preserving our values. In what role I play? Forward!” This is the word of someone who feels like he scored the goal, but the question is also perfectly measurable: the pillar has been set back by 70 mm, the roof junction is more advanced by 20 mm, whereas the engine was lowered by 13 mm and the seat surface is closer to the ground by 20 mm, with the seat directly anchored to the back of the chassis.

Helmetless centaurs

You get the urge to enter the vehicle by jumping over, but the door is so light. In the MX-5 you get out the same way as you climb on bikes. It’s no coincidence if the image Jinba jittai – meaning the union between the rider and his horse according to Japanese culture – resembles that of a centaur, but I was ready to touch with my knees at every turn. Instead, the legs are straight under the vertical steering wheel, perfectly aligned with the pedals, the instruments and the controls. There is no separation between inside and outside, not like standard cars. The only compromise to progress is quality, which was improved in the other Mazdas, and the man-machine interface, regulated by the 7-inch screen and the knob of the MZD Connect system. Here technology helps in tightening up ergonomics and also by putting Bose system speakers in the headrests. There will be time for everything: for now I, too, will focus on essence and, before I get hooked on knobs, icons and app, I’ll press the engine start button.

The story and the myth of pleasure at the wheel

The 4-cylinder engine roars and the gear lever, short and vertical, vibrates and looks like it’s saying: “hold me and I’ll put you directly in touch with this car”. The MX-5 is not just a mechanical object and its purpose is to bring joy to the driver. I understand that right away after a few meters. The clutch is light, every switch is precise and instantaneous. The steering, too, but I would have liked a bit more load from the electromechanical control. On the other hand, I have nothing bad to say about precision and naturalness, which is the same with suspensions: they don’t just do their job, they do twice as much, absorbing bumps and keeping the wheels firmly on the ground, all the while maintaining the right amount of body roll. The brakes are powerful, but they have little bite in the first part of the pedal run: If I want to accelerate I need to floor it. The thermometer reads 27 degrees, the road often turns by 180 degrees and that’s where the MX-5 brings joy via the wind as tomorrow brings another curve. And blessed be the limited slip differential.

Fun takes a joyride. Between the 1500 cc or 2000? I’d go with the former, because 131 HP is quite lively on 975 kg while 160 HP can at times feel like it’s too much – but not for the body or the mechanics, which are synchronized like clockwork, but we’re talking about going on the streets and how the MX-5 begs to be enjoyed. Wheels 16- or 17-inch? Here, too, I would choose the more conservative solution, because it makes driving even sweeter, remarkably similar to that of the first MX-5, but as if someone had removed any surface impurities with a crafting tool. While I’m thinking all of this, I realize that the magic from 25 years ago is still there, the magic of a myth capable of telling its own tale with ever-new words. There is only one problem, or rather two. One concerns me directly and it is that I have to get down, or better say get out. The other is for those who are waiting for the Mazda MX-5. If you think you can enjoy it this Summer, you'll have to change your plans: because the first deliveries will arrive in September. Prices range from 25,300 Euros for the 1.5 Evolve up to 29,950 for the 2-liter Sport.

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