Arrival of MX-5 variants delayed by Aussie noise compliance

Arrival of MX-5 variants delayed by Aussie noise compliance

Mazda New Zealand has solely launched a 1.5-litre GSX variant of its new MX-5 roadster here because the 2-litre Limited models have not yet complied with Australian drive-by noise regulations.

At the New Zealand media presentation, MX-5 programme manager Nobuhiro Yamamoto says Mazda has to wait until October for compliance to be granted for Australian drive-by noise regulations by the relevant authority there, before production can begin in Japan.

The new 1.5-litre six-speed manual MX-5 GSX model weighs just over a tonne at 1009kg, and it hits the road priced from $40,995. It is now available in New Zealand dealerships.

A 2-litre Limited six-speed manual variant will arrive in January 2016 priced from $46,995 and its an $1800 walk up to the six-speed automatic MX-5 Limited which also arrive in January.

Mazda New Zealand product planning manager Tim Nalden says that initial interest from dealers and customers in the manual 1.5-litre GSX model has been larger than expected.

Nalden wouldn’t comment on expected sales volume for the MX-5 but he says it would be quite reasonable to assume that each variant will account for 1/3 of total sales.

Mazda has gone back to the future by creating a new MX-5 two-seat roaster thats lighter than it’s predecessor and harks back to the fun-to-drive character of the first generation launched in 1989.

Globally more than 950,000 units have been sold in three generations of MX-5, making it the most popular open-top two seat sports car yet says Mazda.

The new car is known as the ND series, Yamamoto says the company wanted top recreate a light-fun-to drive car just like the first generation NA series MX-5, but one that was also equipped with the latest active and passive safety technology, as well as connectivity and functionality demanded by the market in 2015.

Yamamoto was adamant that the car is all new and not a simple facelift. He says the MX-5 is a brand icon for Mazda and the ND series had to deliver both the design and the driving experience demanded by the market, as well as offering a user-friendly boot space that can accommodate two carry-on size suitcases.

Attention has been paid to making components as light as they can possibly be, and more lightweight aluminium panels are used in the new MX-5, including the bonnet and internal roof panel of the folding soft-top.

“It is the lightest and most rigid MX-5 roadster Mazda has yet created,” says Yamamoto. “It has a low centre of gravity and a low yaw moment of inertia, we have tried to create a vehicle using our philosophy of Jinba Ittai – car and driver being as one – to make the MX-5 move as an extension of the drivers body.”

Attention has also been paid to the revision of the suspension geometry, the engineering of the seat structure, and the engines sit further back, and are lower than the previous model.

The new ND series MX-5 cars also receives dual-pinion electric power steering.

It also has a lower and wider stance than it’s predecessor the NC series, but the design of the front wheel arches coupled with the lowered driving position still allows the driver to better judge the position of the front wheels according to Yamamoto.

The mechanism of the folding roof was also redesigned to be easier and quicker to open and close, which was put to the test during our on-road and on-track drive during a particularly rainy spring day at Hampton Downs.

Driving impressions.

Yamamoto san wasn’t kidding about the lowered driving position, you do sit quite low to the ground in the new MX-5 but the view out is very good, despite the infotainment screen located in the middle of the dashboard.

The newly engineered seats feel very comfortable despite their slender proportions, and the air conditioning system kept the windscreen clear and the cabin comfortable. The occupants do sit more closely together than previous generation cars, and occasionally the driver will find themselves brushing the passengers leg when changing gear.

The 1.5-litre engine loves to (and needs to) be revved to get the best performance out of it, theres not much low down torque and it won’t pull away quickly in higher gears when exiting a corner. You also need to pick your time and space carefully when exiting a T junction onto a busy road.

Ride quality is excellent for such a firmly sprung car, the MX-5 didn’t feel uncomfortable when being driven at pace over some gnarly and pot holed back country roads in the North Waikato.

It was a quick and simple operation to put the roof back up when seated inside the car, a sudden downpour meant a quick and sudden stop but in seconds we were back on the road.

A four-lap dash around the Hampton Downs circuit in the pouring rain also proved the stability of the MX-5 and the effectiveness of it’s traction control and ABS braking. Pushing the car beyond its limits will see the systems kick into gear and rein in any idiocy.

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