With free reign to rework the current Mazda MX-5, what would you change? A difficult one, really, because it does such a good job of nailing its lightweight roadster brief. That said, a bit less body roll might be nice, as would more adjustment in the driving position, particularly for taller drivers. And nobody is going to turn down extra power, are they?
With the 'ND' fourth-gen car having been on sale for more than three years now, an MX-5 facelift isn't far off. For Japan that car is already a reality, the prototype drives now emerging on its automotive websites. And despite the car looking remarkably similar, there appear to be some very worthwhile tweaks to the MX-5 under the skin.
Most notably, the Skyactiv-G engines have been overhauled for more power. In a world of desensitised and flat, downsized turbos, the zingy and eager atmospheric engines of the MX-5 are even more enjoyable than ever. For the facelifted 2.0-litre, power is up from 158hp to 184hp and torque increases from 147lb ft to 151lb ft. The 26hp jump has been achieved the old-fashioned way, too: if you want an engine to make more power, you make it spin faster, and as such the 2.0-litre now revs to 7,500rpm (up from 6,800rpm before). To handle the increased speed in reciprocating mass more comfortably, each piston and conrod is lighter (by 27g and 41g respectively) and the crank has been redesigned. In addition, the "passage area" of the throttle valve is 28 per cent larger, the port area is expanded by 18 per cent, and the exhaust valve diameter has grown as well.
Add to that a new flywheel - said to be of the 'low inertia dual mass' variety - plus a different exhaust silencer for improved noise, and it's clear that there's quite a lot more to this MX-5 update than meets the eye. The 1.5-litre car also receives the larger intake port and lighter pistons, though with more modest gains; and by more modest we mean one horsepower (to 132hp) and one pound foot (to 112lb ft). Still, something is better than nothing, right?
Alongside the engine modifications, perhaps the most interesting change for this MX-5 is the introduction of telescopic steering wheel adjustment. Sounds minor, but anybody who has been forced to stretch to the overly large wheel will appreciate just how irritating the rake-only adjustment that has persisted until now was. While the reach adjustment is only 30mm, the (translated) Japanese correspondent here says that the driving position is "low enough to be a sports car by the telescopic". Sounds positive...
Finally, it's probably worth noting the new 'Caramel Top' and 'Sports Tan' colours available for the hood and interior, softer rubber bushes in the rear suspension and improved active safety features. Certainly that's what we know of so far, although more could be coming - with added details surely set to follow over the next few months. And if the mid-life spruce up has you keen on an MX-5, don't forget that early cars are now out of warranty (or very close to). There's no excuse not to give BBR a call then...