MAZDA MIATA MX5
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Mazda MX-5, roadster renaissance

And that time was long gone, when Japanese products were imitation of what was manufactured in the West. Since the 70s, Japanese production reached a technical, stylistic and quality level that surprised the rest of the world.

Along with cameras and motorcycles, the cars of the land of the rising sun were gaining well-deserved fame. So much so that, since 1980, it took the world leadership in automobile manufacturing from the United States.

And it was not only a question of quantity and quality, it also took the lead in developing new automotive concepts. A good example of this is the Mazda MX-5, a playful sports car that in 1988 led the way for others.

A friendly face. At the height of the “bio design” of the 5s, the MX-XNUMX's shapes add sympathy.
A friendly face. At the height of the “bio design” of the 5s, the MX-XNUMX's shapes bring sympathy

Chicago Salon, February 1989

At the US show, Mazda's unveiling of a convertible called the Miata drew widespread applause.

For a price of only $ 6.000, the Japanese firm offered a carefully designed roadster and efficient suspensions. And if that were not enough, rear-wheel drive and powered by a modern 16-valve 115 hp engine at 6.500 rpm.

Firm American orders far exceeded production capacity. To the extent that it was delayed for sale in Japan, where it would be called Eunos Roadster, while it did not come to Europe until 1990.

In fact, during its first months of commercialization there were resales of Mazda Miata above the official price. And it is that in the USA there were impatient people, who wanted to enjoy it in a spring that already seemed too close.

Careful aesthetics. Connoisseurs immediately alluded to its resemblance to the 1957 Lotus Elan
Careful aesthetics. Connoisseurs immediately alluded to its resemblance to the 1957 Lotus Elan

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A multinational project

Before its exhibition in Chicago, the genesis of this model went through a much longer process than usual.

The basic idea was born from journalist Bob Hall, who, after years as an editor at the magazine Autoweek, He had started working in 1981 in the communication department of Mazda USA.

Bob wished a simple roadster that would bring back the driving fun that sports classics had. And that, incidentally, comfortably surpasses the already outdated Alfa Romeo Spider, Fiat 124 Sport Spider and MGB Cabriolet in sales.

That Bob Hall concept was screened again in 1983, leading to three studies. Two in Japan, a front-wheel drive spider and another with a central engine; and a more sensible one in the United States, with a front longitudinal engine and rear wheel drive.

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Chrome Mazda plate. In an age of matte black parts, the use of glossy elements made all the difference
Chrome Mazda plate. In an age of matte black parts, the use of glossy elements made all the difference

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Already in 1985, the selected work was the American one and in 1986 it became a serious project, directed by the engineer Toshihiko Hirai.

From the prototypes made in the United Kingdom by the IAD company, the P729 project was taking shape. Stylists Norman Garrett, Koichi Hayashi, Tom Matano and Wu Huang Ching were responsible for the design of the car.

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Beyond appearances

But also, in the P729 project It wasn't just about creating a car to ride in the open air. It also had to have a weight distribution very close to 50% on each axle, a highly rigid body and excellent road performance.

Following such a demanding plan, the Mazda MX-5 was fitted with an aluminum frame that joined the engine, gearbox and rear differential. Thus a solidity was achieved that
it reinforced its stability and its precision in curves.

MX-5. In the name of this car, the M corresponds to Mazda and the X to its experimental character
MX-5. In the name of this car, the M corresponds to Mazda and the X to its experimental character

In the same way, the multi-link suspensions on both axles were designed to achieve optimum stability. And in that same line it had four brake discs, the front ones of the ventilated type, left over for the 960 kg of empty weight.

Passengers were also referred to in the design of this compact and lightweight roadster: the cabin has to comfortably accommodate tall people, but without leaving plenty of space.

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The arrival in our market

The first units seen in Spain came directly from the United States. The savvy parallel importers brought in copies of the Mazda Miata, commissioned by customers who were impressed with its qualities.

On the other hand, the tested example is manufactured in 1992 and imported by Tecnitrade Automoción, the general distributor of Mazda Motor Corporation in our country.

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A folded hood. Just release two hooks and pull back to enjoy the outside air.
A folded hood. Just release two hooks and pull back to enjoy the outside air

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It corresponds to the LSD version, which added interesting accessories compared to the basic variant. Among them, power steering, limited slip differential, headlight washers and alloy wheels.
Already inside, the Mazda MX-5 LSD added a Momo leather steering wheel, electric windows, antenna and two speakers. And both versions had a common option, a hardtop made of fiberglass.

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A visual review

On the front of this Mazda, its peculiar lower mouth and the groups of the flashing lights they give it an almost biological personality. It has its point of affectionate pet, in the “Bio Design” style of the time.

To the “Bio” facet, the MX-5 adds overtones of classic taste, such as the retractable headlights, the Minilite-like wheels or the chrome door handles.

In contrast, the rear light clusters have a style that was a novelty in its day. Not surprisingly, one of them appears in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as one of the outstanding works of industrial design of the '90s.

A nod to the classic. Manually operated, the retractable headlights connect the MX-5 with the sports cars of the sixties.

Stylistic innovation. With fresh aesthetics, the rear light clusters on the mazda MX-5 are considered a masterpiece of industrial design.
1- A nod to the classic. Manually operated, the retractable headlights connect the MX-5 with the sports cars of the sixties
2- With novel aesthetics, the rear light groups of the mazda MX-5 are considered a work of art of industrial design

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Thoughtfully designed

Jinba Ittai. This was the concept that had to inspire the future Mazda roadster, whose translation from Japanese is something like “the rider who forms one body with his horse”.

Its aesthetic resemblance to the Lotus Elan was not accidental, but was an unmistakable sign of what Mazda intended with this convertible. Build a lightweight roadster with enough power, fun to drive, and Japanese reliability.

Along with its dynamic qualities, a meticulous study of its design was also carried out, combining the project between the departments of Japan and the United States. The style of the central mouth of the bumper, the choice of retractable headlights or the chrome locks on the doors were part of that meticulous study.

The goal was to excite hundreds of thousands of drivers, eager to have a classic-style convertible, but with the advanced techniques of the late XNUMXs.

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mazda_mx5_1992_19

Accessible motor

When the hood is raised, the engine compartment is occupied by the powertrain. Above and in the center, the bi-tree cylinder head with four valves per cylinder and the four spark plugs well at hand, as well as a large part of the accessories that need maintenance.

By having a modern injection system, the reliability and smooth running win many integers. It has lost the sometimes cumbersome charm of twin carburettors, but that tradition was already incompatible with anti-pollution regulations.

Thanks to the electronics, this engine has a behavior in line with the mood of a roadster. It works with sufficient ease at low speeds, but its maximum torque is achieved at 5.500 rpm and momentarily reaches 7.200 rpm.

For its part, the tire equipment is calculated without falling into the typical excess of too bulky wheels. Both the rims and tires in size 185 / 60-14 provide plenty of grip, while maintaining a comfortable ride.

Installed in longitudinal position. Bi-shaft and multi-valve impeller exposes most of the components that require periodic mechanical check
Minilite style. The optional 5,5 x 14 alloy wheels match the car's image and contribute to the excellent handling of this roadster.
1- The bi-shaft and multivalve propeller is installed in a longitudinal position, with the elements to be checked periodically in sight
2- Minilite style. The optional 5,5 x 14 alloy wheels match the car's image and contribute to its excellent handling.

In the driving position

Open the door, sit down, adjust the distance to the steering wheel and the inclination of the backrest, an easy and effective process. All the controls remain in their ideal places, which shows the good previous work of the Mazda ergonomists.

Pleasant feel on the leather Momo steering wheel, as well as on the gear lever and handbrake. And at the bottom, a perfect support for the left foot, accompanied by pedals that seem to be made to measure.

It is difficult to find the electric windows, which go in the center console. And it also satisfies some restraint when it comes to designing the cockpit and dashboard, which have what it takes and lack colorful trim.

Although the interior lacks color, there is room for a couple of average height and the finish is neat.

To pick the mouth. Except for those of NBA stature, the driving position of the Mazda MX-5 is perfect. It also highlights the pleasant touch of the controls.
1- Although there is a lack of color inside, there is ample space for a couple of average height and the finish is neat
2- To ask by mouth. Except for those of NBA stature, driving the Mazda MX-5 achieves a perfect driving position

To finish off the job, from the seat it is easy to release the two locks on the hood with your hand and pull it back. Of course, the most meticulous will have to press down on the hood already deployed, in order to secure it in that position.

Now it's time to review the instrumentation. All of it is needle, in predigital style up to the odometer and with a speedometer graduated up to 220 km / h, while the red zone of the lap counter starts at 6.500 rpm.

And to the two large clocks are added a coolant thermometer, gasoline level and an oil pressure gauge. In addition, this example has a clock and a voltmeter on the center console, somewhat obscured by the gear lever.

Reflex penalty. The instrumentation, complete and legible, but in such a vertical position that it generates reflections.
A shame The instrumentation, complete and legible, but in such a vertical position that it generates reflections

A clever trick

In the first tests published in motor magazines, journalists were so excited about the Mazda MX-5 that They placed the small volume of the trunk among the few criticizable sections. Officially, the rear compartment had a capacity of 100 liters, not counting the space occupied by the spare wheel.

Likewise, on the rear platform you can carry some luggage ... We must remember that a two-seater convertible does not intend to compete in this sense with any van. However, Ignacio discovered a valuable place to carry the emergency spare wheel and thus optimize the available space. Being narrower and sheathed, it does not stain and fits perfectly behind the back of the right seat.

Since then, every time he and Monica go away for the weekend or on vacation, they take the wheel out of the luggage rack and put it back in the right place. With this, the volume closed under key increases and shortages are avoided.

To save space in the trunk, nothing better than taking out the spare wheel. In this way, there is volume in the back suitable for a couple's vacation.
Provided that the occupant of the right seat is not tall, behind the right seat there is an ideal place for the emergency spare wheel.
To save space in the trunk, nothing better than taking out the spare wheel and placing it behind the right seat

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Enjoy it!

It is a sunny but cool morning, so we start the tour with the hood up. As much as this unit is almost twenty-two years old, the hood fits perfectly, so much so that it invites you to use the hardtop on rare occasions.

But as soon as the sun starts to heat up just roll down the windows a little to see that annoying resonances attack us, accompanied by violent gusts of air.

As Mónica and Ignacio know, the solution is to keep the windows closed or stop and fold the hood. The latter is the option chosen and, incidentally, with the retractable headlights on.

On the road again, the luminosity, the slight puff of air and the studied sound of the exhaust make it seem that we are in another car. In a tourist plan, the Mazda moves with ease and the speed of the power steering places the car where it is asked.

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Pleasure to drive. As soon as the sun rises, it is a pleasure to ride with the top down. And if someone is cold, with the heating directed towards the feet.

Light, air, sound. In tourist driving, the finesse of the controls make the Mazda MX-5 comfortable and relaxing to drive.
1- Pleasure to drive. As soon as the sun rises, it is a pleasure to ride with the top down. And if someone is cold, with the heating directed towards the feet
2- Light, air, sound. In tourist driving, the finesse of the controls make driving the Mazda MX-5 comfortable and relaxing.

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It's nice to change gears with such a smooth and precise lever. But nevertheless, on secondary roads you also want to block the third and, taking advantage of the progressivity of the engine, use it exclusively from 30 to 120 km / h.

As you ride faster, you notice the harmony between the 50% weight distribution and a fairly short wheelbase. In long curves, this convertible goes on rails and there are no understeer or oversteer.

Now, when exiting a tighter curve, it is delightful to see how the rear progressively slides as we throttle in second or third. And without scares, because if something stands out, it is the ease with which it is repositioned using the steering wheel.

For their part, the brakes do their job. But its four discs (the front ones, ventilated) have not quite the expected bite and you have to hold back on the descents at a lively pace.

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Bulging eyes. With the lights on, the Mazda MX-5s of the first series gained in sympathy and differentiated themselves from the rest.
Bulging eyes. With the lights on, the Mazda MX-5s of the
first series gained in sympathy and differentiated themselves from the rest

Polyvalence

Beyond sporty driving, This roadster has a balance that makes it easy to use in urban areas or on highways. Since the hardtop can be removed, covered or installed, there are alternatives to instantly adapt it to whatever interests you the most.

Anyway, the routes through secondary roads, without traffic and in good weather, are the tastiest. Of course, with the somewhat planned route and knowing where to refuel, that with 45 liters of tank there is no excess autonomy.

It is also worth knowing that, in light rain and with the top folded, the occupants do not get wet if they go over 70 km / h. But since they have to roll at a lower speed, just in case, it is good to bring something waterproof to wear on your head.

The balanced distribution of weights and the short wheelbase, the recipe for a noble and progressive behavior.
The balanced distribution of weights and the short wheelbase, the recipe for a noble and progressive behavior

Likewise, with the top on the Mazda MX-5 has an acceptable Cx coefficient of 0,38. This aerodynamic figure, together with its small frontal surface and the 115 hp engine, makes it able to maintain highway cruises of up to 160 km / h.

That said, it is clear that a couple can go on vacation with their MX-5, even standing out on the highways of countries that accept higher speeds.

On this type of road, the aerodynamics worsens if you drive with the lights on, but there is no choice but to give impossible bursts with the hidden headlights.

Uncovered and with the windows up, you can enjoy the brightness, but if you go fast, the escaping air is annoying.
Uncovered and with the windows up, you enjoy the light, but if you go fast, the air leakage bothers you

That Friday morning, once the photographic session was completed, Ignacio and Mónica continued on their way to a spa where they would rest for the weekend. They still had to cover 60 km and had plenty of time, so they made the journey through some truly delightful second-order roads.

Both because of the free time they had and because of the little trip, we had a certain feeling of envy, which also included the enjoyment that they were going to continue to experience for the rest of the day.

Finally, the details

The detail of the controls to open the boot and the fuel tank filler cap remains for the end. Its lid can be locked, there is discretion and also fit objects such as sunglasses or a remote control.

And finally, the other great detail is that this year the primitive Mazda MX-5 are in luck, as the clubs specialized in the model are well in charge of remembering. And it is that, without realizing it, since 1989 25 years have passed, a period of time that asks us to look at them with different eyes, even though their successful design does not make them seem so veteran.

Confidentiality. In the center console and locked away, the controls for opening the boot and the gas cap, plus a small receptacle for storing small objects, such as sunglasses
Confidentiality. In the center console and locked away, the boot and boot opening controls
gas cap, plus a small receptacle for storing small items, such as sunglasses

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NB, the second generation

Following the international success of the Mazda MX-5 NA, of which more than four hundred thousand units were built, in 1998 they were replaced by the Mazda MZ-5 NB.

With this change of model, Mazda responded to the offense posed by the competition. And it is that other manufacturers realized that the segment had become appetizing, so much so that they launched convertibles with a similar approach.

For example, Alfa Romeo launched a new Spider in 1994 and BMW got it right in 1995 with its Z3. The Fiat Barchetta and MG F also saw the light that same year, eager to gain a foothold in the market.

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Ten years more modern, this NB lost the initial aesthetic personality. It has greater features and equipment, in addition to having increased the playful spirit.
Ten years more modern, this NB lost the initial aesthetic personality. Has older
features and equipment, in addition to having increased the playful spirit

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Under these circumstances, the Mazda MX-5 NA began to decline in 1995, so the directors of the Japanese company gave the green light to the development of a successor.

Thus, in 1998 appeared the Mazda MX-5 NB, whose headlights were no longer retractable. It also had more powerful versions with more equipment, although always designed so that its drivers fully enjoy the pleasure of driving.

Without going any further, the black copy of the photograph. Manufactured in 2002, it has a 1,8-liter engine and 146 hp. Standard equipped with a 6-speed gearbox, 50% limited slip differential and lowered suspension, imagine how much fun it can be.

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[su_spoiler title = 'TECHNICAL DATA: MAZDA MX-5 FROM 1992 ′ show =' false ']

• Engine: 4 cylinders in line, four-stroke cycle.

• Displacement: 1.598 cc.

• Power: 115 DIN CV at 6.500 rpm.

• Gearbox: Manual, 5-speed.

• Traction: Rear

• Brakes: Discs

• Tires: 185 / 60-14

• Fuel tank capacity: 45 liters

• Length / width / height: 3,95 / 1,675 / 1,235 m.

• Roads / Battle: 1,41 / 1,43 / 2,265 m.

• Weight in running order: 960 kg.

• Maximum speed: 185 km / h.

• Average consumption: 8,2 l / 100 km. [/ su_spoiler]

What do you think?

Ignacio Saenz

Written by Ignacio Saenz

I am Ignacio Sáenz de Cámara, I was born in Vitoria more than half a century ago. As it happens to many of you, I too suffered / enjoyed from a young age with that impossible to restrain attraction towards any motor vehicle. As I got older, I saw that I also liked to read everything that fell ... View all

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