Mazda MX-5 Coupe Generation III 2007 Review

Mazda MX-5 Coupe Generation III 2007 Review

Mazda MX-5 gen III 2007 fq

Jinba Ittai. It’s not the first time I’ve started a review with something that sounds like an infinite number of monkeys on typewriters were stopped in their tracks before achieving the complete works of Shakespeare. But this time it’s not Polish I’m quoting (see here), it’s Japanese. Mazda has decided to trot out the phrase, meaning ‘rider and horse as one,’ to most aptly describe how it feels to drive the generation three MX-5.

I have never felt ‘at one’ with any mammals other than female humans, so I can’t vouch for the linguistic accuracy of Mazda’s jinba ittai metaphor. If it is supposed to be like riding a horse, then changing gear is like reloading a shotgun as you gallop across the plains. You know in the movies when, with a snap of the arm, the hero recharges his weapon ready to inflict yet more carnage on the villains? That’s what swapping cogs is like. It’s a satisfying snick into the next ratio, ready to gun the engine again to the redline, and there are six of them to work your way through.

Saddled, as the MX-5 is, with an engine that doesn’t quite have enough horses (only 160 of them [118kw] at 6,700rpm from the 2-litre MZR unit) you do have to work the gears and revs to extract every last drop of fun. But everything else about the MX-5 has been designed to push the boundary further, just like the first MX-5 back in 1989. The original redefined two-seater roadsters and injected new life into the segment. But you can’t trade on one trick for 28 years so Mazda has developed this third generation MX-5 as a front-mid-engined car, just like the McLaren Mercedes SLR.

In our manual test car, which comes with the torque-sensing limited-slip differential, the sound was most definitely MX-5 (I’ve owned two before — a 1.6 and 1.8, both generation one.) The engine has been moved back 135mm so it sits behind the line of the front wheels (this is the front-mid engine position) giving a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The fuel tank has been moved lower, torsional rigidity is up 47%, and the driver sits pretty much in the centre of gravity of the car. With this extra stiffness, there’s none of the scuttle shake that plagues early MX-5s when the top’s down; in fact, it barely felt any different at all whether up or down.

Multilink rear suspension and double-wishbone front suspension gives the MX-5 a crisp and responsive feel, fairly neutral into corners, and without enough power to make snap oversteer a problem for the inexperienced. This, then, is a car any driver can enjoy. DSC (dynamic stability control) makes it all the more safe, and coupled with traction control, ABS, multilink suspension at the back and double wishbone front suspension, the tyres like to stay pointing in the right direction.

Despite the brilliance of the MX-5’s gearbox, if you’re a rush-hour road warrior, you may want to opt for the six-speed Activematic gearbox with paddle shift. Then you can stop/start on the motorway in lazy convenience listening to the seven speakers of the Bose 200W audio system featuring an in-dash MP3 six-disc CD player.

When it’s sunny (but not too sunny for those with fairer skin and a propensity for melanomas), it’s time to put the top down. The folding hard top adds 36kg to the weight which slightly hampers the performance over the ragtop, but the price premium is less than that of buying a soft top and the optional hard top to go with it (which you then have to store somewhere). This additional weight is partially negated by Mazda’s push to use lightened materials where possible. The bonnet and boot are aluminium, as are the brake callipers and some suspension components. Thankfully, a diffuser (‘windblocker’) is included as standard between the two seats to reduce the turbulence when the roof is down and the ride at 110kph is not blustery like MX-5s of old.

Could you live with the MX-5, or is it a weekend car? Interior storage isn’t that voluminous (someone told me a Honda Goldwing motorbike has almost as much); if you want it as a toy it’s slightly pricey, and the pedals are offset to the right (something that might not have been so marked if Mazda had used a smaller 5-speed gearbox but given the engine more power). At a fraction under four metres long, the MX-5 fits into parking spaces and garages easily, helped by the excellent turning circle. Visibility is a bit restricted by the hood, so reversing sensors would be a welcome option.

Basking in the idealism of jinba ittai, would you hoof it in an MX-5? It’s a focussed car — one that’s ultimately slightly impractical — but you will know if it’s for you. A combination of image and handling means I wouldn’t send this beast to the glue factory — it’s far too much fun.

What we like

  • Handling
  • Gearshift action
  • Folding hard top
  • Easy to drive

What we don’t like

  • Offset pedals
  • A bit pricey
  • More power please — perhaps a turbo version like with the Gen II.

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Mazda MX-5 gen III 2007 fq

Jinba Ittai. It’s not the first time I’ve started a review with something that sounds like an infinite number of monkeys on typewriters were stopped in their tracks before achieving the complete works of Shakespeare. But this time it’s not Polish I’m quoting (see here), it’s Japanese. Mazda has decided to trot out the phrase, meaning ‘rider and horse as one,’ to most aptly describe how it feels to drive the generation three MX-5.

I have never felt ‘at one’ with any mammals other than female humans, so I can’t vouch for the linguistic accuracy of Mazda’s jinba ittai metaphor. If it is supposed to be like riding a horse, then changing gear is like reloading a shotgun as you gallop across the plains. You know in the movies when, with a snap of the arm, the hero recharges his weapon ready to inflict yet more carnage on the villains? That’s what swapping cogs is like. It’s a satisfying snick into the next ratio, ready to gun the engine again to the redline, and there are six of them to work your way through.

Saddled, as the MX-5 is, with an engine that doesn’t quite have enough horses (only 160 of them [118kw] at 6,700rpm from the 2-litre MZR unit) you do have to work the gears and revs to extract every last drop of fun. But everything else about the MX-5 has been designed to push the boundary further, just like the first MX-5 back in 1989. The original redefined two-seater roadsters and injected new life into the segment. But you can’t trade on one trick for 28 years so Mazda has developed this third generation MX-5 as a front-mid-engined car, just like the McLaren Mercedes SLR.

In our manual test car, which comes with the torque-sensing limited-slip differential, the sound was most definitely MX-5 (I’ve owned two before — a 1.6 and 1.8, both generation one.) The engine has been moved back 135mm so it sits behind the line of the front wheels (this is the front-mid engine position) giving a perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The fuel tank has been moved lower, torsional rigidity is up 47%, and the driver sits pretty much in the centre of gravity of the car. With this extra stiffness, there’s none of the scuttle shake that plagues early MX-5s when the top’s down; in fact, it barely felt any different at all whether up or down.

Multilink rear suspension and double-wishbone front suspension gives the MX-5 a crisp and responsive feel, fairly neutral into corners, and without enough power to make snap oversteer a problem for the inexperienced. This, then, is a car any driver can enjoy. DSC (dynamic stability control) makes it all the more safe, and coupled with traction control, ABS, multilink suspension at the back and double wishbone front suspension, the tyres like to stay pointing in the right direction.

Despite the brilliance of the MX-5’s gearbox, if you’re a rush-hour road warrior, you may want to opt for the six-speed Activematic gearbox with paddle shift. Then you can stop/start on the motorway in lazy convenience listening to the seven speakers of the Bose 200W audio system featuring an in-dash MP3 six-disc CD player.

When it’s sunny (but not too sunny for those with fairer skin and a propensity for melanomas), it’s time to put the top down. The folding hard top adds 36kg to the weight which slightly hampers the performance over the ragtop, but the price premium is less than that of buying a soft top and the optional hard top to go with it (which you then have to store somewhere). This additional weight is partially negated by Mazda’s push to use lightened materials where possible. The bonnet and boot are aluminium, as are the brake callipers and some suspension components. Thankfully, a diffuser (‘windblocker’) is included as standard between the two seats to reduce the turbulence when the roof is down and the ride at 110kph is not blustery like MX-5s of old.

Could you live with the MX-5, or is it a weekend car? Interior storage isn’t that voluminous (someone told me a Honda Goldwing motorbike has almost as much); if you want it as a toy it’s slightly pricey, and the pedals are offset to the right (something that might not have been so marked if Mazda had used a smaller 5-speed gearbox but given the engine more power). At a fraction under four metres long, the MX-5 fits into parking spaces and garages easily, helped by the excellent turning circle. Visibility is a bit restricted by the hood, so reversing sensors would be a welcome option.

Basking in the idealism of jinba ittai, would you hoof it in an MX-5? It’s a focussed car — one that’s ultimately slightly impractical — but you will know if it’s for you. A combination of image and handling means I wouldn’t send this beast to the glue factory — it’s far too much fun.

What we like

  • Handling
  • Gearshift action
  • Folding hard top
  • Easy to drive

What we don’t like

  • Offset pedals
  • A bit pricey
  • More power please — perhaps a turbo version like with the Gen II.

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

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