A slightly longer wheelbase (up 2.6 inches to 91.7 inches), fractional increases in overall length and height, and a 1.6-inch increase in width provide the new MX-5 with a roomier, more comfortable cabin. The new, T-shaped instrument panel is available with piano black finish, side air bags are offered for the first time, and there is more interior storage, including a handy lockable bin between the two seatbacks. The top is released by a single, center-mounted latch rather than two peripheral ones as before, and it folds into a neater, Z-shaped stack that fits flush to the rear deck. The seating position is ideal, and the steering wheel feels great in your hands. Mazda engineers devoted a lot of energy toward optimizing esoteric ergonomic considerations such as the position of a driver's palm and wrist while gripping the wheel and moving the shifter. Pedal placements should be ideal for heel-and-toe shifting.
Everything about the new MX-5's mechanical specification appears to be spot-on, and the interior clearly should be a more comfortable and rewarding place to spend time. But what about that exterior? The simple, classic lines of the first two generations have been joined to what are, in our opinion, too many RX-8 design cues, and we're not sure how well the marriage is going to work. The swelling wheel wells simply look out of place, even if they do accommodate bigger footwear, and they further emphasize the car's lack of svelteness. There's too much of the Audi TT, now a decade-old design, in the bulbous body panels.
Whether roadster enthusiasts will care about any of that will become known in due course. First, we need to drive the Miata, which happens in June. Our full report likely will appear in the September issue of Automobile Magazine, on newsstands in August. In the meantime, we look forward to hearing what you think about the latest version of the car that is Mazda's heart and soul.