History of the Mazda MX-5

In April 2016, the Mazda MX-5 reached one million cars produced, maintaining its crown as the world’s best-selling two-seater sports car.

The Mazda MX-5 first appeared at the Chicago Motor Show in February 1989, when Mazda took the wraps off this lightweight, affordable sports car. MX-5 stood for Mazda Experiment and project number 5, taking over seven years of design, engineering and testing before being released in May 1989. It became the spiritual successor of the British sports cars of the 1950s & ’60s, such as the Triumph Spitfire, Austin-Healey Sprite, MGB and the Lotus Elan.

The original model MX-5, known as the NA, was launched with a 1.6-litre engine of 85 Kw, a five-speed manual transmission and its characteristic pop-up headlights. There was an update to a 1.8-litre engine in 1994, but it was never about the power. Drivers were amazed at the handling and spectacular balance to flaunt its 950kg kerb weight, leaving the driver with a big smile on their face.

The second-generation MX-5 arrived in 1998 without its pop-up headlights due to pedestrian safety concerns. Known as the NB model, its sleeker looks made it look wider than its predecessor. Once you add in the options, the NB MX-5 increased its weight by 115kg. In 2001, a facelift for the NB saw the introduction of variable valve timing and a six-speed manual transmission.

In 2005, the third generation or NC model was released. This car was a complete overhaul for the MX-5, with a more aggressive look from the flared wheel arches. Mazda offered a power-retractable hardtop option for the first time within two years of release. 

By 2015, many felt that the MX-5 had moved too far from the original NA models lightweight, affordable sports car mantra. So, when the fourth-generation MX-5 was released to the public in September 2014, there was great anticipation on what Mazda would do to bring back that original feeling of the NA model from 1989. The ND MX-5 is shorter than the original and weighs in at 1000kg, lighter than its predecessors. With SKYACTIV technology, there was a choice of two engines, a 1.5 litre or 2.0 litres. In late 2016, a new MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) model was released. It features a rigid roof and buttresses that give the silhouette a more coupé-like appearance than the soft-top convertible.

Long live the roadster.

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