As the evenings draw out, some of the more adventurous amongst us want that ‘wind in the hair’ driving experience that convertibles offer. This month we are looking at the ever-present Mazda MX-5, a car that delivers that sports car fun feeling in spades.
In the 1980s Mazda wanted to recreate a fun, sporty soft-top in the style of a classic British sports car into a segment overwhelmed by hot-hatches. The Mazda ethos was to deliver a car with the following setup:
- two seats
- light weight
- small engine
- rear wheel drive
- fun handling
First unveiled in 1989 to overwhelmingly positive global reviews, it had different names for different markets. Known as the Eunos in Japan, the Miata in North America and MX-5 in Europe, a number of Eunos’ came to the UK from Japan throughout the 1990s.
A sales hit from the beginning, the first generation, code named NA was available with 1.6 or 1.8 litre engines and weighed just under a tonne. The car came with classic flip up headlights, two seats, a manual fabric roof, and an optional removable hardtop. As the years passed, Mazda introduced special editions with premium interiors including a celebration of Mazda's 24 hours of Le Mans win. This version combined the winner's colour scheme of green and orange and a turbo charged engine becoming one of the most sought after editions. The NA generation is now collectable, despite the high level of sales.
After eight years of production, the second generation (NB) was released. The body looked quite different. Removing the pop up headlights allowed compliance with new pedestrian safety regulations, whilst the body become slightly wider and heavier. Still available with 1.6 and 1.8 litre engines but generating a little more power the basic winning formula remained. A facelift in 2001 increased power for the 1.8 litre engine. Once again, the use of special editions maintained sales rates.
Released in 2005, the third incarnation (NC) was “all new” - sharing very little with previous generations. It had new suspension, revised bodywork and larger engines of 1.8 and 2.0 litre capacities. The car was larger and heavier, but the sports car DNA remained, despite the addition of more creature comforts and safety aids.
Through this period, many manufacturers launched folding hardtop roofs for convertibles. Tending to be less noisy, more secure and with better insulation, vehicles with this style of roof are more usable year round. Not to be left out, Mazda launched the roadster coupe version in 2006. Produced until 2015, the third generation MX5 had the longest run.
The (ND) fourth generation released in 2015, was named World Car of the Year in 2016. This version went back to its roots, of a lightweight agile sports car by shaving 100kg in weight. Now available with 1.5 or 2.0 litre petrol engines, the sharp new styling and great handling re-invigorated the model. Announced in 2016, the MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) features a rigid roof and buttresses delivering a more coupé-like silhouette. The top panel of the roof folds back whilst the buttresses remain in place, like a Targa top.
Now approaching 30 years of MX-5 production, a 30th Anniversary special edition would be an excellent celebration for a car that saved a segment.
Below is a chart that shows Glass’s trade data expressed as a percentage of original cost new price for the MX-5 and the sector that it sits within. The fact that it consistently outperforms its sector clearly demonstrates that there are still plenty of admirers for this Mazda icon after nearly three decades.