Sunday 19 April 2015

MX-5 Interior Design

The new generation interior design has managed to keep some traditional MX-5 features whilst at the same time being thoroughly modernised. The use of higher quality and innovative materials, including a newly developed bio-plastic; paired with the latest technology shows how Mazda has improved car interiors across their range.

The layout of the instruments in the new MX-5 is more driver focused than before. In some ways the design reminds me of the RX-7 interior that wrapped around the driver putting everything in close reach. The Roadster's interior design is aimed at enhancing the Jinba Ittai experience by making the driver feel more connected with their car and able to fully concentrate on driving.
Although the car is wider than the NC, the driver sits further inboard by 15mm. The layout of the instruments is such that there is a definite line that goes through the centre of the driver and puts the tachometer in a prominent central position. This line is emphasised further by the stitching in the seats. There is good use of symmetry within the guages themselves and the two air vents either side. Mazda even sacrificed one of the traditional four circular air vents to achieve this design. The fourth vent still exists but is now a rectangular shape integrated into the dash.
The pedal & footrest layout and feel was studied extensively and will allow for easy heel-and-toe driving. The pedals are positioned so that the driver can sit with a straight posture without having to adjust their legs at an angle to reach the pedals. I was glad to see the gearstick uses a spherical gearknob and is also positioned in what was deemed to be just the right place with the ideal weight and feel. The handbrake position is carried over from the NC.
All models benefit from a good looking 366mm diameter 3-spoke steering wheel. These wheels will feature controls for the Bluetooth phone integration, stereo, and cruise control depending on the model and specification. Of course there is the standard airbag in the centre along with the customary large Mazda wings badge. No Nardi wheels here unfortunately.
The interior trim differs slightly between models. Higher spec cars will have more silver trim, the MZD Connect infotainment system, i-Activsense rear view mirror, and i-Activsense control panel. The control panel is located to the right of the steering wheel on right-hand drive cars. On lower spec cars it only switches off the dynamic stability control (DSC) with the other switches being replaced by blanks. A push button start was optional on the NC, here it is standard equipment.

Higher spec interior

Lower spec interior

i-Activsense controls comparison

As part of the gram strategy to achieve weight savings wherever possible, the old style NC seats were completely redesigned. Gone are the heavy metal springs instead replaced with an advanced net fabric material with urethane padding. Not only are they lighter, they also provide improved comfort and support. The standard seats are finished in black cloth with red stitch.

Some higher spec models will get black leather faced seats with a different red stitch pattern and multi-stage heating. The seat heater switches are positioned just under the HVAC controls, there is also a small display here that shows warnings such as the passenger airbag status. The special edition Launch model will feature heated tan leather seats. Also making a return are headrest speakers on cars equipped with the Bose stereo upgrade. These are easy to spot thanks to the perforated headrests and Bose badge on the shoulder bolster. Behind the seats there are gloss black rollbar trim pieces. As with the NC, these will likely be available in various colours.

Recaro sports seats with red piping, Bose headrest speakers, and leather & Alcantara trim were available in some markets.

The new door panels have a chunky angular look to them and also feature a hidden grab handle and synthetic leather trim with contrast stitching. Within the door, the windows have been trimmed down to save weight. The quarter windows are smaller with the specific aim of controlling how much wind enters the cabin, not too much to be annoying, but just enough to be fun to drive with the roof & windows down. Carbon fibre trim surrounds the door switch panel which helps give the interior a modern premium look. The interior doors are finished off with the new body coloured trim piece designed to blur the line between exterior and interior.

These pieces are made of Mazda's new plant based bio-plastic which was co-developed with Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. The trim panels are coloured using a dye process to achieve a high quality finish without the need for paint. They are body coloured as standard but are available as an option in gloss black if desired. Since these panels are removable I think they will likely be among the first parts customised by owners. I can already foresee some creative designs or maybe just a simple carbon dip would look good?
I'll be going over the various stereo systems in another post, for now I just want to mention the two display units. Lower spec cars will be equipped with a small LCD display that shows basic information such as radio station and clock. High spec cars will use the Mazda Connect touchscreen display. This 7" screen sits on top of the dash in an optimum position for the driver, it also allows the rest of the dashboard to be lower to improve visibility.

You may be wondering where the CD player is as it's not immediately obvious on looking at the interior. Well in a very forward looking move on Mazda's part, the CD is optional on the base model. I think they recognise that people are now more into playing music files via AUX-in and streaming music from mobile devices. On cars spec'd with the CD/DVD player the drive is mounted between the seats.

Other models in the latest Mazda range feature the heads-up "Active Driving Display". This is a small flip-up screen that sits on top of the instrument cluster. A tiny projector is directed at the screen and shows the driver info such as current speed and navigation. Sadly this gadget isn't used on the MX-5, at least not for the time being. I think it would be good to add as an option, but perhaps there just wasn't space in the MX-5 dash.

Moving across to the instruments, we can see the prominent tachometer in the centre with the speedometer to the right. The gauge on the left houses a small display panel featuring digital readouts for fuel level and coolant temperature as well as the tripmeter & outside temperature. The space around the gauges is used for some of the warning lights with the others being positioned inside the gauge faces.

All cars will use the lower right quarter of the tachometer to display the current selected gear. The pictures below show a Japanese spec car illuminated at night and during the day. Note the silver and black trim rings, the indicator for "i-stop", and the blue "low coolant temperature" indicator light that goes out once the car has warmed up. There does not appear to be any sort of fake gauge for oil pressure.
In terms of storage and practicality, the new car is a little worse than the outgoing model. There is no traditional glove compartment, but there is a small cubby box within the centre console. A lockable compartment between the seats and more storage boxes behind the seats. There are no longer cupholders built into the doors, instead there are two removeable holders that attach between the seats, and another removeable holder that mounts to the passenger side of the centre console.