Mazda officially unveiled the MX-5 Roadster Coupe this morning at the British International Motor Show, and it has the makings of a big winner. In the Northeastern and Midwestern United States, where rough winters are enough to scare off some convertible shoppers, this car is going to find many friends. If you're willing to accept the weight penalty for the retractable hardtop -- the Roadster Coupe weighs 81.5 pounds more than the standard MX-5 Roadster -- you'll be hard-pressed to find a four-season roadster this good.
The folding hardtop looks simply fantastic when closed, and it retracts in just 12 seconds. Like the soft-top MX-5, the driver has to manually unlock the center-mounted latch on the windshield and then press a button to let the motors work the rest of the magic. At first glance, it looks pretty much like any other MX-5 on the road with the top down (there are subtle differences). The roof itself is ingenious, folding into 3 sections that stow behind the seats, leaving trunk space unaffected. Considering the MX-5's size and its limited trunk space to begin with, this is a packaging triumph, and it gives dealers a great selling point to work with beyond the obvious benefits of the hardtop itself.
(More info and photos after the jump - Now updated with Mazda's comprehensive press release)
The Roadster Coupe is essentially as compact as the regular MX-5, measuring just 10mm taller at the roofline. Some of the dimensions in the rear deck area have also changed to accommodate the hardtop. The bootlid design causes the leading edge of the rear deck to be 40mm higher than what it is on the soft-top car. To compensate, Mazda raised the trailing edge 20mm and made the rear fender bulges reach higher. The upshot of the changes is that the Roadster Coupe has a slightly more muscular look at the rear. The high-mount brake light has also been redesigned.
Expanding the size of the roof opening would have compromised body stiffness, so the hardtop uses the same cutout as the soft roof. Reinforcements in the rear shore things up and give the Roadster Coupe stiffness on par with the standard car.
Dynamically, the hardtop car does differ from its stablemate. The added weight of the new roof system alters front/rear weight distribution, center of gravity, and front/rear stiffness balance. Mazda has retuned the suspension to compensate for these changes, and the result is that the MX-5 Roadster Coupe has a ride that is more refined (read: softer) than that of the MX-5 Roadster. In all honesty, most of the buyers of the Roadster Coupe probably won't care about this. In fact, some may welcome the change. If they simply must have a more sporting ride, the soft-top MX-5 is there for the taking.
Powertrain options are the same as those available for the MX-5 Roadster. By adding the Roadster Coupe to the MX-5 family of cars, Mazda has covered all the bases. Sure, there are trade-offs you make when you select one over the other, but that's to be expected. Roadster shoppers will now have two outstanding products to choose from at Mazda showrooms. No matter how you spin it, that's a good thing.
Folding Hard Top For MX-5 Roadster
"At the 2006 British International Motor Show, we at Mazda are unveiling a new version of our modern motoring icon. It's called the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe*, and it opens up a new dimension of fun and versatility for people who love open-top sports cars.
The Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe is a brand-new counterpart to the third-generation MX-5, which we launched in 2005. It has the same responsive performance and emotive styling as the soft-top model. But at the same time, it's equipped with the unique Power Retractable Hard Top - the first-ever electrically retractable hard top that doesn't sacrifice any boot space.
The third-generation MX-5 embodies Mazda's belief that the MX-5 experience should centre on driving enjoyment. And the key to that driving enjoyment is our dedication to Jinba Ittai - an intimate driver-car relationship that can be likened to the synergy of a rider and horse moving as one.
With the new MX-5 Roadster Coupe, we're delivering an undiluted MX-5 Jinba Ittai experience. At the same time, the Power Retractable Hard Top means a wider range of people can join the worldwide circle of MX-5 owners and enjoy the exhilaration of driving an open-top, lightweight sports car.
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe is ready to spread the fun of lightweight sports cars in diverse and distinctive new ways. I'm certain that this new version of MX-5 which creates the purest-ever expression of Zoom-Zoom motoring, is going to be another winner for Mazda."
-Takao Kijima, Mazda MX-5 Programme Manager
* The model name differs from market to market. In Europe, it is 'Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe'. In North America, it is 'Mazda MX-5 (Miata) Power Retractable Hard Top'. And in Japan, it is 'Mazda Roadster Power Retractable Hard Top'.
The Evolution of a Modern Motoring Icon
Worldwide Praise for the Third-Generation Mazda MX-5
Since its launch in 1989, the Mazda MX-5 has been a smash-hit product around the world. It's so popular that it holds a place in the Guinness world records as the world's top-selling lightweight, open, two-seater sports car, and it has won over 150 industry awards around the globe. Demand is as strong as ever and by the end of May 2006, cumulative production stood at 769,454 units.
The current MX-5 - the third generation of this modern motoring icon - made its global debut at the 2005 Salon International de l'Auto in Geneva. It's an uncomplicated open-top, lightweight sports car in which Mazda further evolved the Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics of the previous MX-5 generation for even greater driving enjoyment. And sports car enthusiasts around the world have overwhelmingly endorsed it.
Customers' high evaluation of the third-generation MX-5 has been echoed in the form of many prestigious industry honours including the Car of the Year Japan 2005–2006 award, Wheels magazine's 2005 Car of the Year award, BBC Top Gear magazine's Roadster of the Year 2005 award, a Car and Driver 2006 10 Best Cars award, and selection as one of top three contenders for the 2006 World Car of the Year award.
Jinba Ittai and the MX-5 Fun Factor
Since its debut in first-generation form, the MX-5 has been distinguished by an incomparably high fun factor. So when Mazda began developing the third-generation MX-5, the development team remained faithful to all the attributes that give the MX-5 its 'lots of fun' personality.
The MX-5 is lots of fun because its Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics give the driver the fun of feeling fully in command of the car and the fun of an open-top driving experience in which the driver feels in touch with his or her surroundings and can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. At the same time, the MX-5 makes everyday life more enjoyable for the owner because it's fun to look at, fun to personalize, and adds to the fun of getting together with friends. In other words, it's outstandingly fun to drive, fun to own, and fun to use.
Since Jinba Ittai has always been central to the MX-5's 'lots of fun' personality, a fishbone chart was created to precisely define all the attributes necessary for a further-evolved Jinba Ittai experience in the third-generation MX-5. Mazda engineers then worked in each of six fishbone-chart categories - driving, braking, cornering, listening, touching, and styling - in pursuit of those attributes. And throughout this effort, Mazda's unique philosophy of Kansei engineering, which focuses on immeasurable Kansei values such as pleasure, beauty, and emotional attachment, was applied.
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe: What, Why, and How?
A number of retractable-hard-top cars have been launched in recent years. Amid this trend, many Mazda MX-5 users have expressed a desire for a smartly designed electric roof that would allow them to enjoy open-top driving in greater comfort.
Mazda felt an obligation to satisfy these customers and realized that a model with a powered, retractable hard top would be an ideal way to expand the MX-5 fan base. So with the third-generation MX-5 as its starting point, Mazda began developing a retractable-hard-top model in which the essence of a lightweight sports car would not be diluted in any way.
The goal with the MX-5 Roadster Coupe* was to further heighten the fun of the third-generation MX-5 open-top driving experience by incorporating a hard top equipped with a user-friendly open/close system. Realizing this goal meant also delivering the Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics that make the MX-5 fun to drive and the distinctive roadster design that make it fun to look at. Mazda also envisaged a new kind of fun for owners: the fun of having a car whose novelty, trendiness, and premium quality would attract attention.
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe: Challenges and Achievements Lead to a World First
Delivering an undiluted Jinba Ittai experience together with the unique benefits of the Power Retractable Hard Top in a car that's truly fun to drive, fun to own, and fun to use meant overcoming numerous technical challenges. The benefits are clear:
1) Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics make the MX-5 Roadster Coupe fun to drive.
The light, compact, stiff body that forms the basis of Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics benefits from an optimally light, compact roof and from reinforcements that stiffen the body opening without creating excessive weight. The low yaw-inertia moment needed in a lightweight sports car benefits from the weight distribution yielded by storage of the roof in the cabin (as opposed to storage of the roof in the boot) where it's close to the centre of gravity.
2) Instantly recognizable styling makes the MX-5 Roadster Coupe fun to own.
While meeting the need for roof stowability, the MX-5 Roadster Coupe inherits the unique roadster identity that was first seen in the first-generation MX-5. Its low, flowing shoulder line and neat, sleek roof lines mean it looks outstanding whether the roof is open or closed.
3) User-friendly features for open-top driving make the MX-5 Roadster Coupe fun to use.
An Overview of the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe
* The world's first electric roof-retraction system that has no impact on boot space
* The roof retracts in three sections into a space behind the seats, leaving the boot completely unaffected.
* Roof operation is easy and quick (12 seconds: the quickest of any electrically retractable hard top on the market today), so it doesn't interrupt driving enjoyment for long.
* A wider range of people can enjoy the exhilaration of driving an open-top, two-seater lightweight sports car.
An undiluted MX-5 Jinba Ittai driving experience
* Users enjoy a new evolution of the fun-to-drive nature of the traditional lightweight sports car.+
* A light, compact body, a low centre of gravity, a low yaw-inertia moment, and the optimal front-rear weight distribution realized by a front-midship engine layout yield incomparable controllability (only 37 kilos more).
* The MX-5 Roadster Coupe has the same great-handling chassis, high-performance powertrain, and throttle-response-enhancing powerplant frame as the third-generation soft-top model.
* The suspension system is tuned to accommodate the unique body-stiffness characteristics and other unique attributes of the MX-5 Roadster Coupe.
* Reflecting the pursuit of balanced performance, body stiffness is just as high whether the Power Retractable Hard Top is open or closed.
* A refined and composed road feel reflects the MX-5 Roadster Coupe's premium quality.
Sports-car design that's both emotionally stimulating and welcoming
* The distinctive side silhouette and low, flowing shoulder line convey the identity established in the first-generation MX-5.
* Boldly contoured rear fenders complement a newly designed rear deck.
* Neat, curved lines give the closed roof a sleek, compact look.
* Chrome-plated body parts add refinement to sportiness (availability differs by market).
* A new range of body colours combines a look of sportiness with a high quality appearance (availability differs by market).
Comfort-oriented features for enjoyable open- and closed-top driving
* The aero board is optimized to maintain the pleasure of an open-top experience in which users feel in touch with their surroundings and can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
* The same specially developed climate-control system as that of the MX-5 soft top model allows users to enjoy open-top motoring in comfort on more days of the year than ever before.
* With the hard top closed, exterior noise is effectively kept out for a refined, composed ride befitting a premium model.
Craftsmanship that heightens the pleasure of using the car
* The Power Retractable Hard Top is easy to operate and moves in a way that looks and feels natural and reassuring to the user but also promotes user excitement.
* Controls with natural-feeling textures and shapes make driving smooth and easy in line with Mazda's unique 'dynamic craftsmanship' concept.
* The same snug, supportive, adjustable seats as those of the soft-top model help users enjoy the car's performance in comfort and with confidence.
* The sports-car engine sound that enhances the enjoyment of driving the MX-5 is the same as that of the soft-top model.
* Stringently checked durability of the Power Retractable Hard Top ensures ample reliability for frequent operation.
Safety and environmental compatibility matching those of the soft-top model
* High visibility, controllability, and braking performance enhance the driver's ability to see and avoid hazards.
* A high-crashworthiness body made with a high proportion of high-tensile steel is complemented, among other safety features, by an airbag system developed specially for the MX-5 to promote occupant protection.
* Advanced security systems give the owner peace of mind.
* Fuel-efficient, low-emission engines, high recyclability, and minimal use of substances that place a burden on the environment address users' environmental concerns.
The features of the MX-5 Roadster Coupe fall into three categories:
(1) the Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics that make the car fun to drive
(2) the instantly recognizable styling that makes the car fun to own
(3) the user-friendly features for open-top driving that make the car fun to use.
1) Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics ('Fun to Drive' Characteristics)
Notwithstanding the incorporation of the Power Retractable Hard Top, Jinba Ittai-focused dynamics make the MX-5 Roadster Coupe every bit as fun to drive as the third-generation MX-5 soft-top model.
Optimal Weight and Body Dimensions
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe is only 37kg heavier than the soft-top model. Although adopting the Power Retractable Hard Top made more weight unavoidable, the overall weight increase was kept as small as possible by steps taken to minimize component weight and reinforce the body for ample stiffness without greatly increasing the weight.
Further, the MX-5 Roadster Coupe is equally as compact as the soft-top model. An increase over the soft-top model of 10mm in the overall height with the roof closed is the only dimensional difference.
The combination of lightness and compactness contributes to lively, linear performance that's manifested in the form of satisfyingly brisk response to the accelerator pedal. And since the roof - a relatively heavy item - retracts within the wheelbase, it does not detract from the weight distribution and yaw-inertia moment that help to make the third-generation MX-5 handle so well.
Uncompromised Body Stiffness
The body opening used to accommodate the retracted roof is bigger than the corresponding opening in the soft-top model. Making the opening larger compromised body stiffness, so to compensate, the rear of the body has newly specified reinforcements, which are all designed to add the greatest possible structural strength with the smallest possible weight penalty. Overall body stiffness is on a par with that of the soft-top model.
Great Handling and a Great Sound
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe has nimble, linear handling characteristics that are every bit as enjoyable as those of the soft-top model. However, the handling is different in a way that suits the new model's more refined character.
Owing to the relatively heavy roof, the MX-5 Roadster Coupe's front/rear weight distribution and the height of its centre of gravity differ from those of the soft-top model. Also, the balance of stiffness between the front and rear of the body differs from that of the soft-top model. To minimize the impact of these factors on Jinba Ittai performance, Mazda optimized the suspension damper and spring settings.
The result of the design revisions is handling that's characterized not so much by the briskness that distinguishes the soft-top model but more by characteristics that give a refined-feeling ride. The MX-5 Roadster Coupe's movements feel slightly gentler than those of the soft-top model; drivers and passengers perceive a relatively smoother, milder road feel. The overall driving and riding feel is ideally suited to people who appreciate the MX-5 Roadster Coupe's premium quality.
To make the driving experience even more enjoyable, the great handling is accompanied by an exhilarating engine sound courtesy of the same Mazda engines used in the soft-top model.
2) Instantly Recognizable Styling ('Fun to Own' Characteristics)
The starting point for design-related development of the MX-5 Roadster Coupe was the iconic roadster design of the third-generation MX-5 soft-top model. So, although the new model incorporates the Power Retractable Hard Top, its identity is unmistakable.
Styling that's Faithful to the Iconic MX-5 Look
Staying faithful to the MX-5 identity was central to development of the MX-5 Roadster Coupe's styling, so the distinctive side silhouette, the low, flowing shoulder line, and other elements of the front and side views are identical to those of the soft-top model.
Toward the rear of the body, essential design adjustments were made to accommodate the Power Retractable Hard Top without compromising the car's identity. Most crucially, incorporating the roof so it could be retracted into the cabin (behind the seats) without affecting the boot space necessitated a rear-deck structure different from that of the soft-top model. Also, achieving a good visual balance between the body and roof demanded several design adjustments at the rear of the body.
Aside from an electrically powered rear deck cover, the most visible differences from the soft-top model lie in the contours of the rear fenders and boot lid and in a new design for the high-mount stop lamp. The rear combination lamps and rear bumper are the same as those of the soft-top model.
A Body Design with Great Looks and Roof Functionality
The rear deck cover makes the front edge of the rear deck 40mm higher than the corresponding edge on the soft-top model. For an optimal height balance across the rear deck, the boot-lid design positions the trailing edge of the rear deck 20mm higher than the corresponding edge on the soft-top model. The new design makes the tail look sharper and more 'pulled up' than that of the soft-top model.
To create a visual balance with the relatively high rear deck without compromising the car's low-slung roadster look, the rear fenders are more prominently contoured toward the top than those of the soft-top model. The powerful-looking rear end strikingly complements the neat, sleek lines of the closed roof.
A Compact and Stylish Roof Design
Light, highly formable plastics permitted a high degree of design freedom with the roof. As a result, the roof is shaped to look compact and stylish in a way that distinguishes the MX-5 Roadster Coupe from other cars and allows users to enjoy the same sense of agility that's communicated by the soft-top model during closed-top driving.
The roof's tautly curved form makes the cabin look compact, and its rear edge is shaped to flow toward the horizontal for a look of speed. The rear window has a printed heating element and is slightly larger than that of the soft-top model for enhanced rearward visibility.
The body has exclusive features that emphasize its premium quality and set the MX-5 Roadster Coupe apart from the soft-top model. Perhaps most noticeably, various body parts have chrome plating, which adds refinement to sportiness (the availability of chrome-plated parts differs by market). Also, the high-mount stop lamp looks sleeker and more refined than that of the soft-top model thanks partly to a slimmer design and partly to a white (as opposed to red) lens.
A Rich Choice of Body Colours
The MX-5 Roadster Coupe is available in a range of seven body colours including two newly created ones: Stormy Blue Mica and Highland Green Mica. The two new colours replace two that were introduced with the soft-top model. They each combine a look of sportiness with a lustrous appearance that creates striking contrasts (vivid where light falls on the body; deep and subdued in shaded areas) and conveys a sense of quality. The other available body colours are Copper Red Mica, Galaxy Grey Mica, Sunlight Silver Metallic, and two 'solids': True Red and Brilliant Black (body-colour availability differs by market).
An Interior Design Exuding Sportiness and Fun
The interior design is completely consistent with that of the soft-top model; it creates an environment that exudes the MX-5's sporty, fun-to-drive roadster personality.
As with the soft-top model, the interior trim is available in three packages: one based on saddle-tan leather, one based on black leather, and one based on black fabric (availability differs by market).
The only noticeable difference from the soft-top model at the front of the cabin is the addition of 'open' and 'close' buttons and an indicator lamp (to control and monitor operation of the roof) near the top of the centre stack of the instrument panel. The buttons are easy to reach from the driver's seat.
The back trim differs slightly from that of the soft-top model: There's no roof opening-hook lever between the seats, and the trim does not incorporate storage recesses behind the seats because of the incorporation of the roof storage space between the trim and the boot.
The seats are the same as those of the soft-top model, so a seatback pocket is provided.
3) Insightfully Conceived User-Friendliness for Open-Top Driving ('Fun to Use' Characteristics)
The Power Retractable Hard Top is a world first in that it retracts into the back of the cabin, thereby precluding any impact on the boot space. Plus, users benefit from quick, smooth, confidence-inspiring roof operation and from a special adaptation of the wind-control technologies of the soft-top model.
The Power Retractable Hard Top
The roof consists of three sections: a front roof section, a middle roof section, and a window section. When the roof is opened, an electrically powered mechanism folds the roof and moves it rearward to stow it in a space behind the seats. A rear deck cover over the storage space is automatically lifted out of the way to allow the roof to be stowed or unfolded and is then automatically returned to its original position.
In pursuit of a smooth, compact retraction arrangement that would neither compromise the MX-5's distinctive roadster styling nor involve a major weight increase, many concepts using a variety of component shapes, materials, and activation mechanisms were tried. A new combination of light, highly formable and stiff plastics for the roof sections was a big part of the solution.
Roof-opening and roof-closing operations are initiated using buttons that flank the hazard-warning button and with reference to an indicator lamp that's located beside the buttons. The operations are quietly effected by two roof motors and two rear-deck motors, which are all controlled by a dedicated electronic control unit.
The user must manually apply a centre lock (this is identical to that of the soft-top model) to retain the roof after closing it. And the user must release the centre lock before opening the roof. These requirements help to enhance safety. The indicator lamp allows the user to check whether the roof is presently locked or unlocked.
If the user releases the 'open' or 'close' button part-way through a roof movement, the indicator lamp comes on and warning beeps are emitted for 10 seconds as a safety warning.
Advantages of In-Cabin Roof Retraction
Whereas electrically retractable hard tops on cars made by other companies use boot space for roof storage, Mazda's unique Power Retractable Hard Top leaves the boot space untouched by retracting entirely within the cabin. Consequently, luggage capacity is not compromised and roof-opening and roof-closing operations can be performed quickly and easily. The speed and ease with which the roof can be opened and closed, regardless of luggage, minimize interruptions in driving enjoyment.
The in-boot roof-retraction arrangement of competitor models leaves a greatly reduced amount of space for luggage (up to 93% of the boot's luggage capacity is sacrificed in the worst case when the roof is stowed) and can force the user to remove luggage from the boot before the roof can be opened. With most models, the user must also get out of the car and manually position a partition board in the boot before starting to open the roof. And since the roof and partition board obstruct the boot opening, they impede the loading and unloading of luggage.
The advantages of the Power Retractable Hard Top mean that a person in the MX-5 Roadster Coupe can open and close the roof quickly and easily, without needing to step out of the car, and without losing luggage capacity. The boot has the same deep, capacious design as that of the soft-top model. It has a capacity of 150 litres (VDA) and can hold bulky items such as a case of a dozen 1.5 litre beverage bottles.
Smooth, Easy, Confidence-Inspiring Opening and Closing
As well as ensuring that the Power Retractable Hard Top has no impact on the boot space, Mazda made it as user-friendly as possible in terms of ease of operation, safety of operation, and look and feel.
Roof-opening and roof-closing operations each take only 12 seconds (the shortest time taken by any electrically retractable hard top on the market today), so the user can open or close the roof without a long interruption in driving enjoyment. But the Power Retractable Hard Top's operation is not merely fast; a moment of relatively slow movement at the beginning and ending of each roof-opening or roof-closing operation promotes the user's sense that the operation has been completed reliably and safely.
To give users even greater confidence, the Power Retractable Hard Top has failsafe functions that prevent unintended roof movements while the car is moving. The electronic control unit that governs roof-opening and roof-closing operations provides these functions by interacting with the powertrain control module, keyless entry controller, and other electronic control units and systems and by functioning in accordance with data from sensors located around the car.
Reliability also contributes to peace of mind for users. Exhaustive durability tests in diverse temperature conditions helped to ensure ample reliability for frequent operation of the Power Retractable Hard Top.
Not Too Much Wind in Your Hair
A wind-in-the-hair open-top motoring experience without much turbulence in the cabin is one of the most popular attributes of the MX-5 soft-top model. To deliver the same experience in the MX-5 Roadster Coupe, the aero board differs from that of the soft-top model because of the different rear deck design.
The front edge of the rear deck (immediately behind the seats) is 40mm higher than that of the soft-top model, so the aero board is supplemented by an air guide that directs forward-flowing air upward so users don't suffer an uncomfortable flow of air against the back of the neck. Consequently, wind control during open-top driving is every bit as effective as that of the soft-top model.
A Relaxingly Quiet Cabin Environment
With the roof closed, exterior noise is effectively kept out of the cabin even during high-speed driving. The superior quietness helps to realize a refined, composed ride befitting a premium model. At the same time, though, the great sports-car engine sound that enhances the enjoyment of the MX-5 driving experience is uncompromised.