Since its introduction nearly 30 years ago, the Mazda MX-5 (nee Miata) has been all about driver engagement over outright power. For 2019, Mazda shifts that focus slightly with a 17 per cent increase in horsepower for the MX-5's 2.0L engine.
To put that in more concrete terms, this tiny roadster's motor now makes 181 hp, up from 155, while torque increases by a modest 3 lb-ft to a total of 151. 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 that Mazda says will make the car more responsive.
Also new this year is an optional brown roof, 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.
Mazda says a new aluminum steering shaft (in place of last year's steel part) keeps the MX-5's weight gain to about three kilograms over last year's car.
The uprated engine still comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a six-speed automatic.
For all the changes Mazda has made to the current MX-5 in the four years since its introduction, this car 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.
But if you can squeeze yourself in behind the steering wheel, you'll forget about those practical concerns as you enjoy 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.
Standard features in the base GX trim include blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert and passive keyless entry. The mid-range GS model gets heated seats and side mirrors, and the top-trim GT gets a nine-speaker stereo (four of which live in the headrests), automatic climate control and leather seating.
The optional folding hard top remains an option, but that 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.