Mazda hasn't changed the engines on offer with this updated model, but lots else has been tweaked about the drive experience. Throttle response is now sharper, the electric power steering has been adjusted and steering rack friction has been reduced to deliver more natural and fluid response through the turns. Mazda's also introduced a new Asymmetric Limited Slip Differential - basically, a cam mechanism has been added to the conical clutch. The cam angle is set differently for deceleration and acceleration, thereby achieving optimal limiting force of slip during fast cornering. If that cornering happens to be on a circuit, you'll appreciate the new Dynamic Stability Control track driving mode, which delays the usual stability intervention for a purer track experience.
Otherwise, everything's much as before. Which means that this fourth generation MX-5 continues to conform to five key criteria that Mazda claims define this model line - rear drive with a front-mid engine layout, 50/50 weight distribution and an eagerness to change direction, plus a low kerb weight and an affordable price. This 'ND'-series design continues to be offered with either a 1.5-litre 132PS unit or a 184PS 2.0-litre engine. The 2.0-litre variant's rest to 62mph sprint time is rated at 6.5s and if you specify a manual gearbox with this engine, your car will come with a front strut brace, a limited slip differential and Bilstein dampers. All soft top models get six-speed manual gearboxes but the 2.0-litre version of the RF folding hard-top variant can be ordered with an optional paddleshift auto.
The MX-5 isn't about straight line pace, it's about agility and tactility. Because the engines are so small, they can be tucked down and back in the car. Weight has been pared back by using aluminium for the bonnet, boot and front wings, while the soft top hood is also very light, improving the centre of gravity. Much of the front suspension is aluminium, as is the gearbox casing, the differential casing and the bracing that runs down the car's backbone. The virtuous circle of weight saving means that the smaller wheels only need four bolts as opposed to five. Lower rotational masses mean that the brake assemblies can also be made smaller, simpler and lighter.
Which you'll enjoy at speed around the corners. Later versions of the pre-facelifted model benefitted from the addition of a clever 'Kinematic Posture Control' system, which applies a very small amount of brake force to the inner/unloaded rear wheel during cornering. The resulting brake force pulls the body down, suppressing body roll to provide more reassuring cornering so subtly that the MX-5's engaging handling remains unpolluted.