Thursday 12 February 2015

New MX-5 Roadster Overview

New Mazda MX-5 Overview
Now that the fourth generation Mazda Roadster has had it's official launch I thought it'd be a good idea to take a quick look at what's new. Here I'll be sharing some thoughts on the new features Mazda has introduced for the ND.

Starting with the vitals, the new car is slightly shorter, slightly wider, less powerful, but significantly lighter and better equipped than the outgoing model. The dramatic new packaging and styling is inspired by Mazda's Kodo design theme. In my eyes the ND is clearly the best looking MX-5, it makes everything else on the road look very dated.
So far we know there will be two skyactiv engines available. Japan will get the 1.5 only, the USA will get the 2.0 only, and other markets such as Europe will get both. The 130 Bhp 1.5 is said to be the purest MX-5 with the best driving experience, the larger 155 Bhp engine adds weight but the extra performance will help in certain situations on the road. With the kerb weight down to 1000kg, the modest power from the 1.5 was deemed to be just right. Two transmissions have been announced, a six speed manual, and six speed automatic. Previously the six speed gearbox was sold as a premium feature on high spec models, now though it has become standard equipment. It's likely to be a close ratio setup rather than designed for motorway cruising.

For the UK I would expect there to be three levels of trim. A base model 1.5 with cloth seats and 16" alloy wheels with 195/50/16 tyres. This spec would be missing luxuries such as climate control and the Mazda Connect entertainment system. Next would be the 2.0, this would add a limited slip differential and some additional bracing. The top model could be a 2.0 Sport which would include an LSD, 17" alloy wheels with 205/45/17 tyres, uprated suspension with Bilstein dampers, heated leather seats, body coloured door mirrors, BOSE sound, and Mazda Connect - amongst other things.

All cars will be soft top as there has been no mention of a retractable hardtop model yet. If you remember back to when the previous coupe was launched, it was a year or so after the original car. There's been speculation online about patents filed by Mazda for what appears to be a new type of folding hardtop, so it may well make an appearance in 2016/17.

I've seen a couple of mockups of what an ND fixed coupe could look like and just for fun had a go at making one myself. Here I've adapted the roofline from a Ginetta G40 as it has similar proportions. The windows need some work, but you get the idea.

I'll come back to the potential coupe another time, for now let's move on with this launch video:

Designing a modern sports car that complies with ever changing laws on safety and emissions, whilst at the same time creating a product that sells is a real challenge. To achieve this Mazda began with an "innovate to preserve" approach to the car's development. This means that in order to hold on to what makes the MX-5 so special, in a changing environment, you to need change how you make the car.

Where other manufacturer's cars are becoming ever more heavy and complex, Mazda wanted to buck that trend with the new Roadster. To make a car lightweight and agile, and also pass increasingly demanding safety regulations you need a fresh approach. This is where innovative designs and new manufacturing methods play their part (which is something for another post). You also need to keep pace with your rivals in terms of features and specification. So what new tech can be found in the latest MX-5?

LED Lights

These have been standard on other cars for a few years now but now make their first appearance on a Roadster. The use of LED lighting has allowed front and rear light clusters to be made smaller without sacrificing performance. The front features additional Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) which are now a requirement on all new cars. At the rear the foglight and reverse lights are now seperate from the main cluster and mounted lower in the rear bumper. There doesn't appear to be any dedicated front foglights.
Mazda MX-5 LED Tail Light
High Beam Control

This will most likley be offered on higher trim levels. This system uses a camera mounted at the front of the car to detect oncoming vehicles and traffic at night and adjust the car's high beam setting accordingly without any driver input. It will save you fiddling with light control stalks whilst steering round country lanes in the dark. Part of the i-ACTIVSENSE suite of safety features.

Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS)

This system monitors vehicle speed and steering angle and adjusts the low-beam lighting direction according to which way the car is turning. This helps provide the driver a clearer field of view at night, potentially spotting hazards that bit sooner.

Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)

A returning safety feature first introduced on the NC. The system can sense a car beginning to skid then works with the car's ABS braking system and reduces engine power to help the driver maintain control in tricky situations.

Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)

Uses radar projected from the rear corners of the car to detect traffic approaching from the rear blindspots. If another car is detected a warning icon will be displayed in the rear view mirrors. This system also helps when reversing out of a parking space when visibility to either sides is restricted.

Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)

A camera mounted in the windscreen scans the road ahead for parallel white or yellow lines and sounds a warning and flashes a dash light if it detects unintentional lane departure. The system differentiates between intentional and unintentional by use of the turn signals.

The i-ACTIVSENSE features are controlled with a switch panel on the dashboard, it looks as though each can be turned on/off individually.
Mazda MX-5 Interior Detail
Mazda MX-5 Instruments
Digital Gauges

The instrument cluster is completely redesigned and now features a triple gauge design with a prominent central tachometer and the speedometer reduced to a secondary position. The night time illumination colour is a crisp white. To the left is a digital display for the coolant temperature and fuel gauge combined with ambient temperature and trip meter functions. It's a very attractive design blending traditional and ultra-modern influences. Other models in the Mazda range include a Heads-Up Display (HUD) that sits on top of the dash, this may become an option on the roadster.

Carbon Fibre Trim

Most likely this is just carbon fibre effect plastic trim, it is used on the door window switch surrounds to give detail to the interior.

MZD Connect

This is Mazda's latest all-inclusive media centre system. It is the brains behind the car's CD stereo, DVD player, MP3 player, navigation, internet, and hands free mobile functionality. The centrepoint being the 7" colour touchscreen mounted atop the dash. Not all models will feature this and there is an alternative stereo system without the screen.

As well as playing music and making phone calls, Connect also includes various handy features such as the Maintenance App which can track your oil changes and tyre rotation schedule. The DVD drive is mounted between the seats and there are also SD, microSD, USB, and AUX inputs for connecting other devices. It is also possible to stream music from your mobile to the car via Bluetooth. The touchscreen can only be used stationery or less than 5mph but there are plenty of other control options.

Media Commander

If you were wondering what that controller by the handbrake is for, it operates the MZD Connect system. There are actually four ways to interact with the Connect system, you can either use the touchscreen, the media commander, the steering wheel controls, or use the voice recognition commands.
Mazda MX-5 Media Commander
Idle Control System

Mazda's engine idle control system "i-Stop" is being rolled out to all new models, including the Roadster. Improves fuel efficiency by stopping the engine when the car is stationary and instantly starting when it's time to move on. It can be turned off with a switch on the dashboard.

Push Button Start

It seems like such an insignificant feature but still feels futuristic to use. Previously an option on the NC, now standard equipment.

Safety Airbags

As well as dual front airbags, the ND uses side airbags built into the new seats and also adds a head protection airbag feature helping to make the new model the safest yet.

Deployable Hood System

Also known as an active bonnet. Sensors in the front bumper detect pedestrian impact with the front of the car and instantly lift the bonnet a with explosive force to create a few inches of crumple zone and reduce severity of injury. This system is carried over from later NC models.

Headrest Speakers

Making a return for the first time since the very first generation model. Speakers built into the seat headrest will help give a clear sound to the stereo and phone calls even with the roof down.

Cup Holders

There are 3, I'm not sure why either.

Side Markers

Not required in all markets, these extra lights are replaced by blanks on the front and rear wheel arch edges. You can just see the front ones on the Arctic White roadster below.
Mazda MX-5 Snowflake White