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2016 Mazda MX5 Grand Tourer – Back to Basics in a way

20160309_113313_002Text and Photos by Cor Steenstra

As you may or may not know, I used to work for Mazda Design in their European R&D center. I joined the team from Mercedes-Benz at the start of 1991, just after Mazda had introduced the MX5 in Europe, Miata in the US. Of course I ended up owning one, a British Racing Green version with tan leather interior and 16″ wheels on GoodYear tires. I loved that car. The road holding was superb, the power to weight ratio was excellent, and I ended up driving it open top in Germany as much as I could, no matter if it was cold or there was a drizzle.

Since then a lot of time has passed, and a lot has changed. I certainly have, and also the MX5 has gone through a lot of iterations. When I saw the first images of this new MX5 I was a little disappointing, I have to admit. I saw some styling elements on there that I was not too keen on, saw some areas that I view as mistakes. I knew some of my former colleagues had been involved in it, so I wanted to be cautious to express any opinions.

I am glad I did.

In reality the new MX5 comes across much better than in any of the press photographs. It is really weird, but I have not had this experience in a long time. The areas that I marked out as quirky or as a mistake turn out to work quite reasonable in real life. I admit they took me a while to get used to, but they were actually quite nicely done.

My initial impression was that the front lights are too low, that the whole front end area could have been lifted up a bit more to not cause such a dramatic drop from the front fender down. That would carry the shoulder forward a bit longer and actually make the car seem a bit longer than this currently. It also in front view would create something a bit more positive, rather than this drooping shoulder impression it has now. Also the headlight, the eyes, are a very Asian shape, which I found unusual from how I remember all previous generations.

The top of the front fender where it start dropping down forward is too far back from the center of the front wheels, a mistake I have seen on other recent Mazda designs as well. The line from the side suddenly going up towards the trunk seemed odd at best, an afterthought, an idea by someone which others thought to just throw it on there as well since there was some empty space.

In reality though I really like the car. As you can see in the photographs, there are plenty of really nicely designed elements all around the car, and it definitely appears to be a higher segmented car than what it is. What I really was impressed with is the interior space. I was starting to get really botched in, almost claustrophobic in the last few generations of the car, and suddenly here I do no longer feel that way. I am not totally convinced of the Chevy-style dash design on this, since it is too reminiscent and seems to discard all of MX5 history, but it does work in this car and is responsible for creating the extra interior room.

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