Toronto, ON. The story of the Mazda Miata is an unlikely one. A little over forty years ago, someone said that a carmaker should build an inexpensive British-type sports car. Fast forward a decade or so and success was almost instantaneous. At a time, small sports car, convertibles and roadsters especially, were all but dead. There was no reason to expect this car to be the runaway hit it was, and still is. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is not just a car, it’s the embodiment of the joy of the moment, the joy of life.
Perhaps what is most impressive is that Mazda has managed the impossible – they’ve always stayed the course no matter the trends or temptations of the ever evolving automotive industry. Very few nameplates have managed this feat. The Porsche 911 were no serious faux-pas was ever made (let’s say that the 996 is the equivalent of the NC). Thankfully for car and driving enthusiasts the world over, Mazda got it perfectly right the first time, and every time.
For the first update to the current generation ND Miata, Mazda’s touched upon what some would refer to as the main issues with the car. I’ve always though the 4th generation MX-5 was perfect in order to please more potential buyers, however not at the expense of its ever increasing fanbase, Mazda’s made an excellent car even better.
Physically, the difference between the 2018 and 2019 cars is limited to the placement of a rear-view camera at the top of the rear bumper. The story is same with the MX-5’s intimate cabin. The only change is the presence of a tilt and telescoping steering column – this is a first. If it was easy to find the ideal driving position in the 2018, settling into the 2019 is nothing short of slipping into my favorite pair of Adidas Gazelle shoes.
The question of power has always come up with the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Many have long thought that the car deserved and needed more oomph. The 2004 and 2005 Mazdaspeed Miatas served that purpose but not since has there been a considerable bump in the power-to-weight ratio. For the 2019 model year, the ratio is more or less unchanged but the sense of speed has grown.
I know my words won’t sell very many cars but sometimes the real story lies beyond the numbers. Mazda engineers have nearly completely revised the SkyActiv 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. It now has a new cylinder head with larger intake valves and intake port, high-lift exhaust camshaft and manifold. The engine block encompasses new lightweight pistons – these are only a few of the many improvements.
The result is 181-horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque which represent increases of 26 and 3 respectively. These numbers seem trivial compared to many sporty cars but the MX-5 is not about drag racing. The 2019 Mazda MX-5 seems faster if mostly because the car build speed in a more linear way, with little to no peaks and valleys in the power’s transmission. The new larger and deeper powerband allows for more torque to be present at nearly all times. The car pulls hard and competently all the way to the new 7,500 rpm redline (from 6,800). The real advantage exists for those that only like, as opposed to love, to shift, as it is now possible to remain in a higher gear and get superior acceleration than previously.
Nothing’s been changed where the chassis is concerned and well, as far and I’m concerned, it was never broke – it has never been broke. If you’re very familiar with the ND Miata, driving a 2019 will reveal reduced levels of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). This is mostly due to the use of a low inertia dual-mass flywheel which greatly limits vibrations and noises throughout the range. It does not however hamper the engine’s ability to climb quickly in revs. The exhaust note has also been reworked with lower frequencies. The overall effect is that of a more refined driving experience.
Picking the right MX-5
Other than the engine and telescoping steering wheel, the grade structure revisions are among the biggest changes for the 2019 model year. The fact that the base GX is no longer offered means a few things. First, the GS is now the entry level soft-top car. Second, the base price is likely to increase correspondingly.
Official pricing has yet to be announced however I will venture a guess that the 2019 GS Soft-Top will start somewhere around $35,000. There’s now a GS-P in the gap between the GS and the top-line GT for the soft top. The GS-P serves as the lower trim for the RF which should continue to hover the $40k mark. The GS-P combines sport and luxury with features such as Bilstein dampers, a limited slip differential, heated seats, Bose audio and navigation. The Sport Package (BBS wheels, Recaro seats and Brembo brakes) can be added as an option. This, in my mind, remains the most interesting MX-5. With the RF, the group is called Grand Sport and is limited to the wheel and brakes. The GT returns with a slew of top and leather colour options.
The 2019 Mazda MX-5 will go on sale this September. We’ll get official pricing information between now and then and share it with you.