Mazda will introduce versions of the MX-5 Miata soft top and RF in Japan that will have a full suite of hand controls, so that the roadsters will be more easily drivable by people in wheelchairs. Similar equipment will be available for the Mazda3, too.
The changes start as soon as owners go to enter the vehicles. An auxiliary seat now deploys to cover the side sill and make it easier to slide into the driver’s wheelchair. Plus, there’s an available wheelchair cover that takes the place of the passenger seat.
Once behind the wheel, drivers find hand controls on the left side, near the gearshift. Pulling the lever back accelerates the roadster, and pushing it forward slows the car down. Switches for common functions like the blinkers and horn are also there. This equipment is only available with an automatic transmission, but owners can still shift manually by using the newly located buttons on the right side of the steering wheel. An extra knob on the wheel also provides a better grip to make it easier to turn.
The wheelchair-friendly parts are available now on the roadsters, and the components open up the sporty vehicles to a group of people that might not usually have easy access to them. The extra equipment adds 365,900 yen ($3,252 at current exchange rates) to the models' price.
In the United States, the current MX-5 Miata continues to perform well despite a couple of years on the market. As of August 2017, the company has delivered 8,871 of the roadsters, including the RF, in the country, a gain of 25.2 percent over the same period last year.