It’s 10 am, the sun is bright and I’ve just hit the first set of corners in the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5. The top is down, BackSpin is cranking out killer tunes and I am in my happiest of happy places.
Underneath me, this new, lighter, shorter chassis follows the ribbon unfurling ahead with effortless swagger. The engine revs high, and the short throws of the gearbox feel solid. My foot moves constantly from firm brake pedal to eager accelerator and back to brakes again. The car pitches forward and pivots smoothly into the corner. The camber of the road catches and balances the nimble little Mazda as we pile on revs and head for the next complex.
Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony has issued a ban on the use of Mazda’s iconic catchphrase – but bugger that for a joke. Zoom-Zoom motherhuggers!
Driving isn’t always like this, but if it were the world would be a happier place.
Of course, that’s being joined by a new slogan, “Driving Matters”, which is ridiculous. Why? Because right now, in this moment, nothing matters. This is like meditation, only with adrenaline and huge grins and power and sun and pure, unadulterated joy.
“Zoom-zoom” is defined best by one model in the Mazda lineup: This one. So, there is more than a little weight on the shoulders of the team redesigning the marque’s defining car. If this car can’t adequately satisfy the expectation that slogan brings with it, there’ll be trouble. Thankfully, they’re off to a good start.
First, Mazda has done the impossible. They’ve taken the trend of ever-bigger, heavier and brawnier cars and thumbed their nose at it. This new edition (ND for the chassis nerds among us) is shorter than the first generation. Never mind the NB and NC – this is smaller than an NA!
This edition has been built from the driver’s seat out, and with 10 years of improvement in design tools, manufacturing techniques and materials the results are mind-boggling. For a start, the old MX-5 had the steering wheel offset compared to the pedal box. In the new one, there is no such offset. Not only that, but the driver sits 15 mm closer to the centre of the car thanks to a redesign of the powertrain frame and tunnel – the driver also sits 20 mm closer to the ground.
Even complex things, like the centre of pitch under braking, were altered slightly to give the driver a more centred and composed feel. In the previous gen, when you braked hard you actually pitched up a little in the driver’s seat with the tail. Now, you go down with the nose. It definitely adds confidence when hard on the stop button.
They call it “driver-centred everything” and it’s a design philosophy dedicated to improving the relationship between car and driver. Moving the driver into the centre and the windscreen back has opened up forward visibility by a claimed 5 degrees – I don’t ever remember complaining about that anyway. The hood is lower, which Mazda says improves the sense of speed for the driver by allowing them to see closer in front.