Mazda freely admits its MX-5 (nee Miata) was never intended to be a powerhouse, but one designed to foster a connection between car and driver for those who crave a more intimate relationship with transportation than most cars can provide.
For 2019, Mazda wants to make that relationship a little more engaging with an updated version of the MX-5's 2.0L engine that now boasts 181 hp, up from last year's 155. That 17 per cent increase in horsepower in accompanied by a nominal torque bump of 3 lb-ft for a new total of 151.
Gearheads will be keen to learn the engine's maximum speed is up, too, to 7,500 rpm from last year's 6,800 rpm redline, thanks to lighter pistons and a new flywheel, along with other engineering changes. There's also a new exhaust system that promises a more enticing soundtrack and a revised differential ratio for more responsive acceleration.
The MX-5 RF, with its folding hard roof, still comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a six-speed automatic.
Also new this year are redesigned black metallic wheels in 16- and 17-inch sizes, a telescoping steering wheel, and redesigned doors, cupholders and seat adjustment levers Mazda says are all easier to use. Safety-wise, traffic sign recognition and smart city brake support have been added to the available i-Activesense suite of advanced safety features.
This is the most refined MX-5 ever, and yet it remains one of the most driver-focused vehicles you can buy at any price point, never mind at the MX-5's roughly $33,000 starting MSRP. If there's a downside here, it's a snug interior in which taller and/or wider people will struggle to get comfortable, and the trunk is rather small, too.
Those who fit behind the steering wheel will quickly forget about those practical concerns thanks to the MX-5's combination of sharp responses and compliant ride, which proves a sporty car need not take pot shots at your internal organs.
The MX-5's base GX trim includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert and passive keyless entry. Mid-range GS models get heated seats and side mirrors, and the top-trim GT adds a nine-speaker stereo (four of which live in the headrests), automatic climate control and leather seating.
A soft canvas roof is also available, but that less expensive variant of this car is covered in a separate buyer's guide entry.
Mazda's fuel consumption estimates for the MX-5 and its stronger engine are 9.0/7.0 L/100 km (city/highway) with the manual transmission and 9.0/6.6 with the automatic.
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