I make no secret of the fact that I like the Mazda
MX-5. I owned one for two years and it was a pleasure to hop into it
each day even for the mind numbing drive to work, and when weekends
came it was sheer hedonistic joy. Other manufacturers should take
Since my MX-5, which was a 1995 model, there have
been subtle changes to the cars, but all the subsequent models have
been identifiably Mazda MX-5.
The latest evolution of the Mazda MX-5 has arrived
with the Roadster Coupe - the first model available with an integrated
electronically controlled folding roof. This was displayed at the
Bangkok International Motor Show, and was my car of the show.
Mazda denies that it has deviated from the MX-5’s
original philosophy of creating an inexpensive, lightweight sports car
with the Roadster Coupe. Instead, it says it has developed a more
secure and practical alternative that will broaden the appeal of its
cult car. Since mine had the hard top, I have to admit that it spent
90 percent of its time in that guise. And the main reason was the fact
that it was too difficult to take off. It was heavy, needed two people
to remove it, and then where did you stow it? A hassle.
Mercedes-Benz was the first car-maker to blur the
lines between a traditional convertible and a sports coupe with its
original SLK roadster in 1997. Since then, a host of manufacturers
have followed its lead, the likes of which extend from cuties like the
Peugeot CC through to exclusive high-end exotics like the
Mazda claims the Roadster Coupe was developed as an
integral pillar of its third-generation NC-series MX-5, although it
required slightly more development time than the soft-top to ensure it
met the strict criteria set out by program manager, Takeo Kajima - the
father of the cult car.
Mazda believes the soft-top will still appeal to
enthusiastic owners who appreciate its lightweight simplicity, while
the Roadster Coupe will attract more discerning owners who demand the
greater flexibility and security offered by the folding hardtop roof.
In fact, Mazda believes, particularly now that the
initial rush for the NC soft-top has been met, that the Roadster Coupe
will make up 60 percent of all MX-5 sales in the future. I would have
to agree. It is not an unreasonable proposition considering the
Roadster Coupe not only has the convenience of the folding roof, but
there is hardly any performance loss as it weighs only 37 kg more than
the soft-top and it also comes standard with the luxury leather trim
and high-powered Bose sound system.
The Roadster Coupe costs 2.55 million baht for the
manual. This represents around about 150,000 baht premium over the
entry-level MX-5 soft-top.
The Roadster Coupe shares the same mechanical
package as the soft-top, powered by a 2 liter Mazda-developed
four-cylinder engine with dual sequential valve timing that produces
118 kW at 6700 rpm and 188 Nm of torque at 5000 rpm.
Located behind the front axle for 50:50 weight
distribution, the engine drives the rear wheels via a six-speed
transmission. The drivetrain is cradled in a stiff transmission tunnel
that is derived from the RX-8 for greater rigidity.
The suspension has been slightly tweaked to cater
for the weight increase, with a larger front stabilizer bar and
retuned rear springs and dampers.
But it’s the roof that really sets this car apart
from its soft-top sibling. It only takes 12 seconds for the car to
morph from a roadster into a coupe - which Mazda claims is the best in
the business - and, having been developed as part of the program from
the outset, is the first of the folding roof cars to not impede on the
boot space when the roof is down. Mazda claims the Roadster Coupe
still provides the full 150-litre boot capacity in either
configuration. The three-piece roof is constructed from a
fiber/plastic composite outer skin and high-strength
glassfiber-reinforced polypropylene inner panels and is just 20mm
thick and weighs only 18kg more than the soft-top roof. The extra
weight is courtesy of the four electric motors, steel, rather than
aluminium, bootlid and structural reinforcements required. It is
controlled by buttons on the top-center section of the dashboard, and
can only be activated while the car is stationary.
Visually, the Roadster Coupe only differs in the
rear section of the vehicle, where the decklid is 40mm higher,
resulting in redesigned rear guards and a tapered bootlid to ensure
the overall design remained fluid.
It comes fully-loaded with a long feature list that includes
air-conditioning, power windows, a six-CD Bose sound system, cruise
control, dual front and side airbags and dynamic stability control and
traction control. And I want one!
stowed in boot