Mazda MX-5 program manager says “no chance” to turbocharging, yes to hardtop
Despite Mazda’s weight-reducing, ‘back to basics’ approach with the latest iteration of the MX-5 roadster, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, program manager for the all-new Mazda MX-5, told CarAdvice in an exclusive interview at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed that a folding metal hardtop will be offered, though stopping short on specific timing.
“Of course, we understand that many MX-5 customers will still want a folding metal hardtop for reasons such as bad weather and for extra security, so we do intend to offer this feature in the future. But at this stage I can’t say when,” he said.
In July 2006, Mazda launched a Coupe Convertible version of the third-generation (NC) MX-5, with a three-piece folding hardtop, in a bid to halt declining sales. It was a popular choice, easily outselling the soft-top versions, although it added around 39kg to the weight of the car.
Early-generation MX-5s were lauded the world over for their superb handling and agility, but that didn’t stop enthusiast buyers calling for more power and performance for the Mazda’s rear-wheel-drive, two-seat roadster.
So 2002 saw the launch of the MX-5 SP, a car that was developed and sold in Australia in limited numbers. Its turbocharged engine developed 157kW and 289Nm (up 44kW and 108Nm over the standard MX-5) and it could hit 100km/h in just over six seconds.
The 2004 model year saw the introduction of the official turbocharged Mazdaspeed MX-5 Turbo in Japan. Instead of the standard 109kW output from the 1.8L inline four-cylinder engine, the SE produced 134kW, facilitated in part by the adoption of a front-mounted intercooler.
It was also marketed in Australia as the MX-5 SE without any reference to the Mazdaspeed brand, though detuned to 121kW. It was also significantly more expensive than the standard car.
However, according to Nobu-San, there will be no turbo variants of the fourth-generation MX-5.
“There is no chance of a turbo version of the Mazda MX-5 – never, never, never,” said Yamamoto.
“We won’t do a turbo for the very simple reason, power is not important for the MX-5. What is important is the handling, agility and the feedback.”
Notwithstanding his take on turbocharging, he didn’t rule out the idea of a lightweight edition of the MX-5 for the enthusiast market.
“A lightweight version of MX-5 is very important for me and Mazda, especially. But that is normally very expensive because of materials like carbonfibre,” said Nobu-San.
“I would like to develop a lightweight version but without high-cost materials, which would still make the car fit our ‘affordable’ philosophy that we want to keep for MX-5.”
We also asked Yamamoto what his favourite version of the new MX-5 was. He replied, “1.5 litre, of course”.
Stay tuned for our review of the new MX-5 from the International launch in Scotland.