Words by: Adam Allen
It’s a bit odd when you think about it- as one of those cars which attracts enthusiasts like moths to a flame, Mazda’s MX-5 and “needs more power” seldom exist in in the same sentence. We think we know why; the MX-5 exists solely to indulge the pleasure centres of the brain where driving resides, and there are few four wheeled examples extant that pour dopamine into the synapses like this little roadster has been doing for so long. Since it was born in 1989, the MX-5 (nee Miata) has never wavered from its mission, and aside from the progress you’d expect of a car that holds the title of most popular roadster of all time it has remained very similar to the NA generation that started it all.
For 2019, Mazda’s tireless incremental improvements have given us- wait for it- a telescoping steering column for the first time. OK, there’s other, bigger news too; the MX-5 now has an engine that doles out the fizz just as much as the rest of the car.
Not that there was anything wrong with the old 2.0 unit. Basically the base engine from the Mazda3, it was turned longitudinally for RWD and stuffed into the engine bay because engineers figured we wouldn’t much care for the 1.5 litre mill found in MX-5’s across other markets. Now, with the help of some upgrades to the engine’s internals, it makes 181 horsepower and 151-foot pounds of torque- nothing earth shattering, but when those horses get going you can really feel the newfound urge. Plus, at a feathery 1,065 kilos, there isn’t much weight saddled to those horses.
So how’d they manage to do that? For those who are well acquainted with the process of squeezing more power out of a naturally aspirated engine, there’s nothing ground-breaking here, no witchcraft courtesy of Mazda’s powertrain engineers. First, they started by making stuff bigger- the valve train bits, throttle body and intake and exhaust ports have all increased in size, with the end game of allowing more fuel and air into the engine’s combustion chambers. They also fitted lighter and stronger pistons and connecting rods and strengthened the crankshaft so that now the redline is a heady 7,500 rpm- and there’s power throughout the rev range to that terminus, and it also sounds even better than before while making that journey. And you’ll be doing that often with the help of the slick gearbox which is still as sweet as ever- actually, it’s better, because Mazda futzed with it to make it even more tactile and responsive although the gearing of the cogs goes unchanged.
Also remaining untouched is the interior dimensions, or lack thereof. Those over six feet tall will want to spend some time at the dealership determining if they can fit comfortably. If you tend to pack heavy when you head out on a road trip, the MX-5’s diminutive trunk and tiny interior cubbies will teach you how to streamline the amount of stuff you bring, which won’t be much. The materials and build quality are still up to snuff and we can’t recall ever having a beef with the MX-5’s quality. The best part of the interior is that you can simply reach behind you while seated in the driver’s perch to raise and lower the top as you see fit- in anything but the fiercest rainstorm you have no excuse but to motor along with the roof stowed, the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.
Fans of the MX-5 won’t need to be prodded to try a 2019 model out and see how the newly found vigor adds to the proceedings. If this is your first encounter with an MX-5, we defy you to stifle the ear to ear grin that will spread across your face while driving one of these roadsters. There’s another reason to snap one of these up, and it isn’t the ease in which you can park it in tight urban spaces (although it does excel at that, too.) You buy an MX-5 because it’s fast becoming an anachronism, one of the last vestiges of an analogue car in an increasing sea of digitally manipulated automobiles. The lack of drive modes and stability control levels, the way it blips the throttle cheekily and without fail every time you thumb the start button- cars like this are disappearing from the automotive landscape. Don’t be like the 20-year-into-the-future-you who’s wistfully regretting not buying one- you know what to do.
2019 Mazda MX-5 GT- Specifications
- Price as tested: $42,395
- Body Type: 2-door, 2 passenger roadster
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 181 @ 7,000 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 151 @ 4,000 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,065 kg (2,347 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 8.8L/100km (28 mpg)