Tuesday 7 April 2015

MX-5 Exterior Design

The ND generation MX-5 is the first to be influenced by Mazda's "Kodo: Soul of Motion" design language. The Kodo theme was launched in 2010 with the unveiling of the Shinari concept car. Kodo design aims to give a car the appearance of strength and agility, through the use of sharp flowing lines across the body, along with a brand signature front end.
Mazda's designers were very keen for the new MX-5 to look good from any angle, regardless of setting. The look of the car was subject to much speculation and prior to the official unveiling there were many photoshop impressions posted around the internet. Some were better than others but most were rather ugly and assumed the front end of one of the larger Mazda models would simply be grafted on to a convertible body.

Thankfully that proved not to be the case and the final design is something Mazda can be really proud of. The new MX-5 was recently named “Red Dot: Best of the Best” at the 2015 Red Dot design awards, which recognise outstanding achievements in product design.

"Our mission was to create a car so captivating it could steal you away from your first love"
- Masashi Nakayama

The influence from the original Shinari design is clear in this profile comparison.
The ND generation is the most compact MX-5 yet. The overall length is 40mm less than the original 1989 model and 105mm less than the current. The height is exactly the same as the NA and NB cars at 1235mm. The wheelbase is slightly shorter than the current model at 2310mm. Despite being shorter than before, the change in proportions have made the car slightly fatter, it is now 15mm wider than the NC. The standard ride height is 140mm. The picture below shows how some key dimensions compare to the current NC generation.

Front Styling

The front end is dominated by a more angular design to the headlights. A sharp line extends from the corner of the front bumper right across the top of the headlights and into the centre of the bumper. It gives the car a much more aggressive look than previously seen on an MX-5. The use of LED technology for the headlights has allowed them to use a more compact design. The indicator bulb is an older filament type, it should be possible to swap for a silver coated bulb if you object to the orangeness.

The grille mouth is a more curvaceous version of the Mazda family shape, with space for a licence plate at the top-centre. Either side of the grille are two sculpted slash design front lamp housings. Some models will come with LED driving lights here as standard, they're also available as an option in some markets. One corner of the grille houses the front tow hook mounting.

Sitting underneath the front bumper in either corner is an air splitter, similar to those seen on the NC3 facelift models. These small aero parts are functional and shaped to channel air under the car together with the front tyre air deflectors. Their design also lends the car a more sporty appearance. A Mazdaspeed front lip air dam is available as an option.

Some markets, namely the USA, will make use of the corner marker lights. These will be fitted to the front bumper just in front of the wheel. In other markets that don't require them, such as the UK, there are blanking trim pieces installed instead. It should be possible to retro-fit the lights here.

A slightly oversized Mazda wings badge adds a finishing touch to the front end.

Side Styling

One of the first things you'll notice on the side of the car are the indicator repeaters. Yes, they've been changed for the first time in 25 years, and now take on a triangular shape sculpted into the front fender.

"Take the side markers for example. The round side markers had been a consistent feature across all generations, but we changed the design for the new model. We felt that there was something more important than simply following the example of the original, and that was to again give the design that timeless quality, so it will delight you just as much after 20 years of ownership as it does the day you buy it" - Masashi Nakayama

You'll also notice the windscreen is mounted slightly further back and now has a black surround as standard. The A pillars have been made thinner to give the driver an improved view of the road.

Thanks to KODO design, the side profile is best described as "swoopy". It rises up above the rear wheel before dropping down into the cabin, it levels out then performs a final swoop along the hood and down to the headlights. This low front end is made possible thanks to a compact engine that is mounted a little farther back. The front fenders have a distinctive bulge to them which gives the car a more purposeful appearance, they are also designed to blend into the interior from the driver's perspective.

Black door mirrors match the windscreen surround, but higher spec models will come with body coloured mirrors. It's also a way to differentiate between grades. Another example are the alloy wheels. I've always felt that the number of spokes should be a multiple of the number of wheel nuts, just for neatness. Mazda seem to agree as if you remember the 5 stud NC came with 5-spoke and 10-spoke alloy wheels. Now that the ND has moved to 4 stud wheels, we have an 8-spoke 16" alloy wheel and an 8-spoke 17" alloy wheel. Each comes in a variety of shades of gunmetal and silver depending on trim level.

A small Mazdaspeed side skirt extension is available as an option.

Rear Styling

The rear end of the car is one of my favourite aspects of the design. I really like the new LED tail lights, the curve line across the width of the bumper, and the way the licence plate has been accommodated. There is also a very neat sweeping line that runs across the edge of the bootlid, along the top of each tail light, and down into the rear wheel arch. The way the tail lights have been frenched into the rear bumper is a smart retro-inspired touch.

The lower section of the rear bumper houses two additional lights. These will be the reverse lights or a combination of reverse and fog light depending on the market. If like me, you would prefer the lenses to be symmetrical rather than one clear and one red, it should be possible to swap them out with parts from another market.

For the first time on an MX-5 the tailpipes are a twin offset design. I would have preferred a centre exit design, but I guess that could be left to a future special edition (something like the Jota GT) or an aftermarket backbox and diffuser setup.

The rear badges are the usual Mazda wings in the centre position, an "MX-5" or "Roadster" badge to the left side, and a new "Skyactiv Technology" badge on the right side. The "Mazda" text badge has been phased out.

Cars destined for the USA market that feature satellite radio will have a controversial shark fin antenna mounted on top of the bootlid. I don't think this is ideal looks-wise and will leave a hole underneath should you remove it. It's not really a major issue but worth noting. Also shown below is the small Mazdaspeed rear spoiler, this part is standard on Club models and available as an option elsewhere.

As with the front bumper, there is provision for the side marker lights that are required in some countries. These will be blanked out in the UK but remain visible. Some model grades will also be fitted with a rear aero deflector just behind the rear tyre. It probably has a small effect on aero efficiency helping to direct air flow around the rear of the car, it's also a handy marketing point to differentiate high and low spec cars.

New Hood

The ND hood is a further refinement of the NC design. Again it features a single catch mechanism in the central position. It also features a new aluminium frame and a rigid front panel section. With the roof lowered, the rigid panel forms its own rear deck cover and creates a smooth line with the boot. The new roof is intended to be raised and lowered using just one arm with the minimum of effort.

Another new feature is that now the windows automatically lower and raise by 6mm when the door is opened and closed. This is to help the windows form a better seal against the edges of the hood. This feature has been around for a while on other marques such as BMW, Audi, and Jaguar, it's nice to see it on the little Roadster. The hood is made of a cloth material, and higher spec models will include an additional lining on the inside.

Rear Lamps

There is a subtle difference between the rear lamps on the lower spec model and the Special & Leather package cars in Japan. The higher level models' rear lamps have a slightly different design with a black border around the edge, as shown below.