Toronto, ON. In the not so distant past, any reasonable bump in power usually involved an accompanying increase in fuel consumption. To the delight of conscientious tuners, upgrading power outputs today rarely come at such an expense. In fact, and depending on the car, plug and play ECU upgrades can easily raise output by 20% all the while reducing fuel numbers.
Mazda’s achieved a similar outcome with the new 2019 MX-5. The car’s SkyActiv 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine required far more work than a laptop and a plug but the result is as convincing. For many, power is everything while for others, a sense of speed is enough. I’m of this mind. Thus, it is for this reason that I know that the new MX-5 is the car that all detractors and non-believers need to sample in order to see the light.
SkyActiv smart power
When the current generation Miata was launched a few years ago, it was initially motivated by a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder engine. We North Americans would typically shy away from such a small engine but the fact of the matter is that nearly all of those (not me) that drove the car loved it. The praise involved the mill’s linear and steady power delivery and the pleasure one experienced while extracting every last drop of it. For 2019, Mazda engineers have applied the same technology and characteristics into the revised and more powerful 2.0-litre.
In order to achieve these results, the cylinder heads and valvetrain are all new. The engine block may be identical but it now features new lightweight pistons while the heads have larger intake valves and intake port, high-lift exhaust camshaft and larger manifold, to name but a few improvements.
The result is 181-horsepower and 151 lb.-ft. of torque which still seems trivial compared to a number of sporty cars but the MX-5 is not about drag racing. It’s about driving, enjoying life and exploring. Chassis-wise, nothing has changed. The car still handles beyond compare all the while providing comfort and an incredible ease of operation. On the latter point, torque plays an enormous role.
The 2018’s engine powerband was far more restricted meaning that in order to get the most of the available power, the driver needed to be well versed in shifting with the manual transmission. I, in actuality, reveled at the idea of constantly up- and downshifting, clutching and heel and toe-ing with reckless abandon. Although this can still be done with the 2019, the far thicker powerband means that less rowing is required. Between 2,000 and about 6,500 rpm, 90% of the engine’s torque is on tap, providing more passing power in all gears.
And yet, this extra juice comes with no fuel consumption penalty whatsoever with the 6-speed manual transmission. With the option 6-speed automatic, there’s actually a slight drop.
Refined, and improved
Mazda’s also thrown in a low inertia dual-mass flywheel. This type of flywheel preserves the engine’s ability to climb quickly in revs and limits unwanted vibrations and noises throughout the range. Its effectiveness can be felt in the throttle pedal – it does not shudder as much as it did in the 2018. Noise, Vibration and Harshness, or NVH, is something OEMs strive to control. Mazda’s addressed it somewhat by also retuning the exhaust system for a more linear engine sound. The final result is surprising.
The enhancements to the 2019 Mazda MX-5 may be difficult to point out visually but some are very noteworthy. Physically, only the rear bumper’s received a slight modification in order to accommodate the now standard rear-view camera. On the inside, the steering column now adjusts telescopically, a first in 30 years.
I once thought it impossible to improve upon the oneness I felt in the MX-5 but Mazda’s done it. You want this new Miata more than you know. Having said that, the new trim structure might cool off the want factor when pricing will be announced closer to the September sales date.
The pricing question
The base GX soft-top is gone. The GS is now the starter model and includes more features than previously, and let’s not forget the new engine. The GX retailed for $31,900 while the GS went for $35,800. I’d be surprised if the price drops for 2019.
There’s now a GS-P in the gap between the GS and the top-line GT, and the lower trim for the RF. It combines sporty equipment such as Bilstein dampers, a limited slip differential and luxury bits like heated seats, Bose audio and navigation. Both the soft-top and RF can be optioned out with a Sport Package with BBS wheels and Brembo brakes. The GT carries on as the range topper. For 2019, options like Brown or Dark Cherry soft-tops, Tan or Chroma Brown leather seats can be selected in either car.
For the must-have Recaro seats, I’d spec out a GS-P soft-top with the package. I’m expecting a $42k – 43K price tag.