By Steve & Tamami Laser with Nahoko Osuka reporting from Japan
Fans of the Mazda Roadster (MX-5) in Japan have been waiting patiently for the day when the all-new fourth-generation goes on sale at Mazda and Mazda Anfini dealerships across the country. The wait is finally over and now the fun begins as enthusiasts start taking delivery of their cars.
(Editor’s note: Those in America and other countries have to wait a little longer for their MX-5s to arrive. We’ve had three encounters with 2016 MX-5 prototypes in America that we’ve shared with you. The first was at the Japanese Classic Car Show last year in Long Beach, Calif. The second was at a holiday party sponsored by the Motor Press Guild at Mazda R&D in Irvine, Calif. where Derek Jenkins, Mazda North America’s Director of Design, gave the group a walk-around of the 2016 MX-5. While the third was at the press days of the Los Angeles Auto Show.)
As a design to “set the heart racing” – Mazda says the new MX-5’s proportions “make the occupants look good, from the car’s low, short front overhang to its compact cabin that positions the occupants in the center. A low and wide trapezoidal form makes the vehicle appear as though it is firmly gripping the road and conveys an image of stability and agility. The body panels wrap around to extend right into the door trim, dissolving the visual boundaries between the vehicle’s interior and exterior and creating an open-feeling interior design.”
Mazda held a launch event for the all-new MX-5 at Belle Salle Nihonbashi conference center in Tokyo on May 20. The following video includes a welcome speech by Mazda’s Representative Director, President and CEO, Masamichi Kogai, and a presentation by Nobuhiro Yamamoto, who led development of the new MX-5.
“The fourth generation Mazda Roadster will go on sale tomorrow at Mazda dealerships across Japan,” said Kogai. “Since we shared the moment of the design unveiling with fans in Japan, Europe and the U.S. last September, we have kept you waiting for a very long time. The model has already attracted over 3,000 pre-orders, so let me express our deepest gratitude to all those customers. All of us at Mazda have been working hard to put the finishing touches on the car and deliver it to customers as soon as possible.”
Watch the Mazda MX-5 launch video from Tokyo that was held the day before the new Roadsters went on sale across Japan. (video: Mazda)
“Lightweight sports cars like the Roadster made ‘fun-to-drive’ accessible to the general public and were very popular during the 1950s and ’60s,” said Kogai. “However, these cars were unable to comply with increasingly strict environmental and safety regulations, and their popularity faded, leading to their extinction in the 1970s. However, at Mazda we found ways to breakthrough these technical obstacles and revived the lightweight sports car. What we created was the first generation Roadster, the Eunos Roadster, which debuted in 1989.”
“Immediately after sales started, the car began receiving high praise for its affordable price, exhilarating open-top feel and the Jinba-ittai driving fun which has today become a symbol of the Mazda brand,” he added. “It went on to become a hit that exceeded all of our expectations.”
“Amid the popularity, we made the decision to build the car at Hofu Plant for a time, in addition to regular production at Hiroshima Plant near the headquarters because we did not want to make our customers wait,” said Kogai. “At that time, I was a production engineer at Hofu Plant, and I suddenly became very busy modifying the production line there to accommodate the additional Roadster production. It is often said that the success of the Mazda Roadster led to the revival and creation of a variety of different open-top sports cars globally, which is a particular point of pride for us.”
“Written in the catalog made for the original model were the words, ‘A car that will make anyone happy.’ Looking at that phrase now, I strongly feel that these words were pointing the way, not just for the Roadster, but for the entire Mazda brand,” he said. “Now, we are about to start sales of the fourth generation Mazda Roadster, which incorporates the same SKYACTIV technologies and KODO design as our other new-generation models. I am certain that this is both a model to complete our global lineup, and a model that will make anyone happy, just like the original.”
Speaking of happy, the Mazda Roadster’s SKYACTIV-G 1.5-liter direct injection gasoline engine is said to respond faithfully to the driver’s will, delivering a pleasing sound and feeling of acceleration that extends continuously from low to high engine speeds.
The newly-developed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission for front-engine rear wheel-drive adopts a direct-drive sixth gear and was designed to be simple, compact and lightweight. Mazda says it features a light and crisp shift feel with the shifter being drawn into gear from mid-shift.
Meanwhile, the optional 6-speed automatic transmission features wider slip control and lockup ranges for a more direct feel and adds a “blipping” function and Drive Selection for sporty driving performance.
With its direct injection SKYACTIV-G 1.5-liter engine positioned behind the front axle, the all-new Roadster achieves the ideal 50:50 front-rear weight distribution.
The curb weight of the Roadster has been reduced by over 100 kilograms compared to the previous model by increasing the use of aluminum and ultra-high tensile steel from 58 percent to 71 percent and adopting a body structure that is both lighter and more rigid. The fourth generation Roadster weighs between 990 and 1,060 kilograms.
Mazda says the cockpit offers an ideal sports car driving position with outstanding visibility, pedals that are centered to the driver’s body and controls laid out for maximum comfort and convenience.
In the video, Yamamoto showed how the Roadster’s convertible top, with its weather-resistant construction, can be opened and closed with a light and easy motion.
Mazda says it worked hard to make the all-new Roadster “a practical vehicle that will add excitement to the customer’s daily life.” Examples of these efforts include easy-to-use storage compartments, removable drink-holders and a trunk designed to accommodate two carry-on-sized suitcases.
Improved visibility is said to enable the driver to “accurately perceive the car’s behavior and quickly confirm conditions surrounding the vehicle.”
Seats feature a new S-fit construction that combines urethane pads with a newly-developed net material. They’re designed to fit snugly and provide enhanced lateral grip.
In addition to 50:50 front-rear weight distribution, a lowered yaw inertia moment achieved by moving the engine rearward and adopting aluminum parts at the front and rear of the body, as well as a lower center of gravity achieved by lowering the engine’s mounting position and seating position, combine to deliver a lighter driving feel.
Mazda Connect car connectivity system is standard for S Special Package and S Leather Package. It connects with a compatible smartphone to enable various functions including hands-free telephone and SMS text messaging.
The navigation system can be operated using the commander control or voice commands. (Customers can purchase the Mazda Connect Navi PLUS SD card from their dealer for all models except the S model grade.)
Among a new roster of available safety features, Blind Sport Monitoring (BSM) uses a 24-GHz quasi milliwave radar to detect vehicles in the blind spot and alerts the driver with an indicator embedded in the mirrors and a buzzer if the driver indicates a lane change. It’s a factory-installed option for S Special Package and standard with the S Leather Package.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the new Mazda Roadster ranges from ¥2,494,800 (about $20,000) to ¥3,142,800 (about $26,000) including tax. Mazda expects to sell 500 units per month in Japan.
Prices, features and specifications applies to Mazda Roadster models sold in Japan and is subject to change without notice by the automaker.
News source, photos and videos from Mazda Motor Corp.
Story ©2015 CarNichiWa.com