Mazda MX-5 Mk1 & MX-5 RF How does the latest RF compare with Mazda’s original MX-5? / #Mazda-MX-5-NA
Running Evo’s MX-5 RF alongside my old Eunos Roadster is proving a fascinating experience. Few other cars, aside from perhaps the Porsche 911, have stayed so true to the same formula over the course of a quarter-century or more – and even the 911 has both grown in size and undergone fundamental changes, first from air to water cooling and then from natural aspiration to turbocharging.
The MX-5, meanwhile, has stuck rigidly, for better or worse, to the same formula. It’s broadly the same size, the Mk4 being only 60mm wider and 5mm taller than the Mk1, but 35mm shorter, and in basic 1.5-litre form its engine differs in capacity by a scant 102cc, in favour of the older car. There’s still an aluminium bonnet and Mazda still uses its ‘Power Plant Frame’ concept, which ties together the gearbox and differential down the transmission tunnel to reduce unwanted twisting effects from the propshaft.
Our Mk4 is a 2-litre model, of course, and in Retractable Fastback form it’s a fair chunk heavier than the original (though still lightweight by modern standards, at 1045kg) while being a great deal faster.
But there are still overt similarities between old and new; little details that give you a hint into Mazda’s way of thinking, and characteristics that some engineer back in Hiroshima probably agonised over as they tried to marry facts and figures with the intangibles of character and fun.
I love the short, notchy action of the RF’s gearshift. It’s not quite as mechanical in feel as that of my older car and maybe seems a little flimsy alongside a 911’s, but it’s still a major point of interaction with the car and one Mazda has decided not to smother under layers of modern refinement. The pedals, too, somehow pair supermini ease with the weights, placement and responses you’d want from a sports car – just like in my old MX-5.
The three-spoke steering wheel? It has a slim grip, narrow spokes and a surprisingly large diameter, just like the Momos and Nardis that came as standard in old MX-5s – or the wood-rimmed Nardi I’ve swapped into my Eunos to give the leather of the original wheel a break.
Open the bonnet and Mazda’s 2-litre #SkyActiv
is almost a spitting image of the ‘B6ZE’ 1.6-litre four in the original, its own cam cover designed to ape the look of old Lotus twin-cam units and the like. Mazda didn’t have to make its brand-new engine look like an old one – it could have thrown a big plastic cover over the lot, like most manufacturers do – but even though you’ll rarely see it (MX-5s have always been reliable), it looks good anyway.
And the differences in how the two cars drive? I’ll be writing about that in a future report.
Above: Ingram’s own Eunos Roadster (left side) rolled off the production line at Hiroshima in 1992, and when compared with our 2017-spec RF it’s clear that the fundamental MX-5 package has hardly changed.
‘The MX-5 has stuck rigidlyto the same formula for a quarter of a century’
Date acquired Feb #2015
/ Feb #2017
Total mileage 95,925 / 5644
Mileage this month 150 / 1488
Costs this month £0
Mpg this month 28.1 / 41.7