Considered one of the greatest sports car of all time and the best selling two-seat convertible, Mazda MX-5 Miata is a challenge for the best car designers and engineers.
The car’s success is due to the sense of oneness and dynamic harmony between man and machine, philosophy which stands behind the brand new third-generation 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Mazda has a distinguishing history of producing great sports cars. The Mazda sports car was the rotary-powered Cosmo Sport launched in 1967, which won the worldwide recognition and praise. The RX-7 followed in 1978 and conquered the hearts of sports car enthusiasts, winning many important race victories. The original MX-5 Miata, launched in 1989 as a 1990 model, revolutionized the two-seat car market. Two years ago, Mazda introduced the RX-8 that redefined the boundaries of sports car design by offering astonishing performance and comfortable accommodation for 4 adults in one innovative sports car package.
The latest third-generation MX-5 Miata is all-new sharing not a single component with the car it replaces. Six versions of the new MX-5 Miata will follow MX-5 Miata: the Club spec, standard MX-5, Touring, Sport and Grand Touring. Mazda will also offer 750 Limited Special version of the MX-5, for the first time.
Weight is not good for sports cars as it hurts acceleration throttle response, handling and agility. It affects braking distances and fuel economy. That’s why Mazda engineers worked hard to reduce weight while building a roomier and safer car.
To save weight designers had to aluminum for the hood and trunk lid along with suspension and braking components. These is widespread use of high-strength and ultra high-strength steel in the unitary construction body that boosts body strength while simultaneously cutting weight. The new 2.0-liter engine features an aluminum block and head and the intake manifold and cam cover are made from lightweight composite plastic. Finally, overall weight has increased by just 27 lbs over the second-generation car and yet the car is roomier for tall or large adults and safer thanks to its stronger body and improved safety features.
By utilizing the “gram strategy” Mazda achieved a vehicle that is roomier and safer. This means that every gram was made by assessing the weight of the vehicle in the smallest possible increments. Under this “gram strategy”, the design of the rear-view mirror was simplified, thus trimming 84 grams, or 0.19 lbs. By applying this strategy throughout every nook and cranny of the MX-5’s design, Mazda engineers were quite effective in building a light, roomier, stronger and safer sports car.
Another imperative was to improve bending rigidity by 22% and torsional rigidity by 47%. They achieved it by using high-strength and ultra-high strength steelin the construction of the body-in-white. In addition, the rear of the transmission is rigidity linked to the front of the differential housing by a Z-shaped frame made of aluminum. This assures that the driver’s throttle inputs are faithfully and promptly conveyed to the rear wheels, ensuring the maximum possible oneness between car and driver.
As in the best sports cars and race cars, front suspension is assured by double wishbones that provide linear toe, caster and camber changes as the wheels travel up and down. Anchor points are reinforced to provide the desired lateral stiffness and mode of aluminum to reduce weight. The new multilink rear suspension has long links to help linearity. For a more accurate wheel control on difficult and taxing roads, springs are coil all round and dampers are gas-filled. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system is an improved version of the second-generation MX-5 design, being lighter and more precise. The 4-wheel disc brakes have also been improved. Front discs are ventilated and increased in diameter by 0.78 inches to 11.4 inches. Rear discs are solid and increased in diameter by 0.16 inches to 11.0 inches. Response and linearity are both improved over the past design. Thanks to the new combination of increased braking power, larger tire sizes, minimal increase in weight and better suspension geometry, overall stopping performance is significantly improved.
To offer better performance, an improved four-cylinder engine and 2 new transmission choices, including an all-new six-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters updates the MX-5 Miata.
The new 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine has an inspiring exhaust note and is brilliantly responsive. It reacts to driver commands with lightening-quick reflexes and offers progressive power delivery. Such linearity is the key to all of the MX-5 Miata’s driving controls. The MZR-series engine is shared with the engine used in Mazda 3, Mazda 5 and Mazda 6.
For ideal handling balance and nimbleness, the engine is mounted front mid-ship. It is 5.3 inches further back than the second-generation Miata’s. it uses an aluminum block and head for lighter weight and structural rigidity, improving thus performance and refinement. Chain-driven double-overhead camshafts and 16-valve breathing are used for improved revving and flexibility.
Variable intake valve timing enhances low-end torque and high-end power. Response has been also improved by using a flywheel lightened by 0.7 lb, a sophisticated electronically controlled throttle and enormously rigid drive shafts.
The maximum power is 170 hp at 6,700 rpm. For good tractability and ease-of-driving, at least 90% of peak torque (140 lb-ft) is available from 2,500 rpm to the 6,700 rpm redline (fuel cut off is at 7,000 rpm).
The vehicle is available with a standard close-ratio five-speed manual transmission and a new six-speed manual gearbox, with gear ratio close-stacked to enhance the joy of sporty driving. By use of triple-come synchros on the first four gears, short quick shift strokes have been achieved. “Miata-like” shift quality became the benchmark for the industry when the first MX-5 was launched in 1989.
A fresh dimension to the MX-5’s personality is added by a new Sport A/T automatic transmission. Six ratios improve acceleration, driving refinement and freeway comfort. Paddles mounted behind the steering wheel command upshifts while buttons positioned on the spokes are used for downshifts. Coordonating engine torque with the shift sequence, the gear is smooth, seamless and fast.
Regarding the design, the idea was to convey fun and modern styling but to retain the iconic feel of the earlier generation MX-5 Miatas.
The new car’s styling is based on the original, but it is new in every way. The first and second generation MX-5 Miata exterior design is a rounded shape with a wide-footprint, large-radius corners and deep side contours. On the 3rd generation, the Coke-bottle shaped center section is eliminated. Instead, the designers used an entirely new oval shape in which the seating area is now the widest portion of the car, taking cues from the Ibuki show-car. It makes for a roomier, safer cockpit and yet still expresses the compact look of a lightweight sports car.
This third-generation car is 1.8 inches longer, 1.6 inches wider and 0.7 inches taller. Wheelbase length is increased by 2.5 inches, primarily to give more cockpit space. Side surfacing is rounded yet taut – like the skin over a muscled body. Door mirrors continue the elliptical theme established by the original MX-5 Miata.
To reinforce compactness, head and tail lamps are mounted inboard. The headlamps design is different from previous MX-5 configurations: the lens cover is shorter in height but steeply slanted to sweep around the corner of the car. The tail lamps combine the traditional elliptical shape from previous design generations with new, modern materials. The grounded grille opening is similar to the original MX-5 Miata and is part of the car’s iconic shape. The front bumper is cleaner and more aerodynamically shaped. Seat-back bars add an eye-catching detail to the rear view.
Excellent for stability, the body shape is totally revised. Side skirts, tire-area deflectors and the front spoiler are designed to control airflow under the body and along its sides, minimizing drag.
Reshaped and redesigned, the soft top provides a sportier, more classic appearance with a flatter upper surface and a longer rear contour that flows smoothly into the rear back. The lowered shape blends smoothly with surrounding body contours so well that no separate “tonneau” cover is needed.
The new Z-fold design makes erection and folding the roof even easier. It uses now a simple, central latch handle rather than the previous model’s 2 latch handles.
The optimal detachable hard top has a sweeping shape that widens out to the rear window which gives a light, modern even aggressive look to the car.
The paint colors are eight in number. Four are new: Galaxy Gray and Copper Red, which are suitable for a modern sports car, and True Red and Marble White for the more traditional roadster look.
The interior design balances comfortable snugness below shoulder level with openness above that gives the impression of riding in open air.
The T-shaped instrument panel is consistent with Mazda design – DNA while the centre console accentuates the backbone of the car. The cabin identity is given by the arched hood over the instrument cluster and the 4 circular vents.
The larger exterior and redesigned cabin ensure an increase in legroom and headroom. Fore-and-aft seat adjustments is increased by 2.0 inches over the previous MX-5. the addition of a tilt steering wheel adjuster offers 1.3 inches of vertical movement. Stowage space has also been improved: all models get front door pockets with bottle holders, a lockable glove compartment, lockable rear centre console, driver and passenger back-panel storage boxes, a rear tray and a driver seat back pocket.
On long drives, small quarter windows block drafts between the windshield pillars and a door mirrors into the cockpit. A newly designed aero board located between the seat back hoops is taller than before and perforated to slow down reverse-flow air that rushes into the cockpit.
The quality of craftsmanship used in the new MX-5 is quite unlike any MX-5 before. From details of bright-trimmed gauges to the “piano-black” finish on the dash, the new MX-5 feels and looks like a far more expensive vehicle that it actually is.