As Allard already mentioned in his recent coverage of the DMPD show in Itterbeck, most of the people attending the show stayed at a local ferienpark for the weekend. Maurice and I, along with some of my Roadster Crew mates, decided to attend this years edition. One of my friends had to work on the Saturday so couldn’t make the main event but told me he would drive over afterwards because he had something to show me. With him being an editor for a few car-related magazines that could mean anything from a Jag to a Nissan Leaf, but when he arrived at our cabin the remarkably familiar sound of a Mazda 4-in-line told me it was neither of the two.
It turns out that Mazda Nederland had given him a brand new Mazda MX-5 ND to test for a weekend, and what better way to test one than on the many b-roads that snake through this part of Germany?
When Mazda announced that they would be making a new generation of the MX-5 product line I, and with me most of the world, was torn between excitement and concern.
The NA was a formidable but quite raw platform, the NB more refined but heavier and more cramped, and the NC.. well.. the NC was quite shit. What road would Mazda take with the ND?
Nowadays cars have become obese, filled to the brim with all kinds of environmental thingies, safety bibs and bobs and all sorts of creature comforts. When the first render of the ND surfaced the world thought just that; the dimensions looked weird, with relatively small lights and quite a large “hump” at the back. The shape was most definitely a Miata, but the more modern influences didn’t seem to blend all too well with the rest of the shape on these initial renders. With no reference of size it was too early to draw any conclusions but the Mazda community was a bit worried about the ND’s fate.
These concerns were mostly taken away when Mazda started feeding the world some specs and renders of the underlying drivetrain. The ND was to be similar in dimensions to the NA, with a slightly longer wheelbase but shorter overall length, and an expected curb weight of around 1000kg. That is a good 150kg lighter than the NC! Gone are the 17” wheels and the trusty 4×100 bolt pattern makes its return as well. Underneath the drivertrain looked quite.. Miata. A four cylinder engine, stick shift gearbox that is connected to the rear differential via a powerplant frame and double-wishbone suspension on all four corners.
Could it really be that Mazda was reinventing the MX-5 chassis? Well, it turned out they did just that.
And boy ain’t it a beauty. Whilst I was skeptical about the front at first, after seeing it in the flesh I must admit that it has started to grow on my. I’m still a fan of pop-ups but with the modern design style I’m not sure if it would look right. The LED projectors produce a LOT of light, which is quite handy when you’re driving on twisty roads in the middle of the night.
The rears are a combination of modern looks and LED technology combined with the old look of the circular reflector. I for one am loving the shape!
Also, fun face: the antenna is directly compatible with the NA. Duchtig.
The model that we featured is the top of the line, 2.0L direct injected 4-cilinder Skyactive engine that cranks out around 170bhp. Whilst this may not seem much to modern standards (your nans hot hatch probably has 200+ hp from her turbocharged hothatch) one must not forget that a) this car is relatively light, and b) that the Miata has never been about sheer power, and anyone claiming it to therefore be slow is clearly misguided and should therapeutically watch this video about that stock NA Miata lapping the Nurburgring in under 10 minutes.
Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a razor-sharp 6-speed gearbox and a trusty Torsen-type differential at the rear. Notice the lovely short stick size and the ordinary non-electronic handbrake. No flippers, no buttons, just you being in control of mechanical things that control the car. Jinba Ittai.
By the way, for anyone wondering: yes it does drift. I cannot tell you how I know nor do I have any proof to back up this statement.
Moving on to the interior, you will find a clean and uncluttered cockpit from where you pilot your ND. You get air conditioning, heated seats, an infotainment system and of course electric mirrors and windows.
Mazda have decided to move the tacho to the centre of the instrument cluster, much in the way Porsche does it. The message is clear: this car is meant to be driven.
The seats are quite comfy adjustable units with high side bolsters to keep you in your seat during aggressive cornering. In the meantime you can enjoy some M83 or Kavinsky for an enhanced driving experience. Or Super Eurobeat, whatever floats your boat.
The steering wheel is simple but elegant and clearly draws inspiration from the RX series from the 70’s and 80’s.
Speaking of steering; this car handles like a dream. The steering is sharp and precise, with just enough feedback coming through your steering wheel, and there is a very neutral balance between grip and under/oversteer. Whilst the car could do with some lowering and maybe a smaller rim with some more tire, out of the box the ND is a formidable platform that just screams to be driven properly. It seems like Mazda, much like Toyota with their GT-86, have spent a lot of time on finetuning the chassis and suspension.
The same is to be said for the pedals, the clutch and throttle pedal feel very similar to the pedals in the NA and NB; responsive, light enough to allow for extreme precision and just enough feedback. The brakes feel progressive and seem very capable in stopping the car.
Mazda seem to have chosen a different path for the ND and I for one am liking the results a lot. The focus seems to have shifted back to its origins again; a light and nimble sportscar that has all the necessary contemporary luxuries yet retains that raw and sharp edge. Whether you enjoy some fast paced corners, nighttime cruising or roadtrips: the answer will always be Miata.
Now that the new RX has been announced one can only hope that Mazda stays on this path because if they manage that, the end results could be nothing short of amazing.
But that’s still a few years in the future, in the mean time I better start saving!
Words by Bop Westerduin
Photography by Maurice Bergers and Bop Westerduin
I would like to thank Mattijn Nederend and Mazda Nederland for allowing us to spend some time around the car.