Look at the sales figures, furnished with the knowledge that each model was on sale for roughly eight years, and it’s clear that Mazda's original MX-5 was significantly more successful than its successor.

Of course, it had the market virtually to itself at first, and a small part of the original’s magic was lost in the transition to the Mk2. For this third-gen model, Mazda has therefore striven to recall the distinct flavour of its ancestor while offering the space, safety and durability of a thoroughly modern car.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Boot isn’t exactly large at just 150 litres, but it’s quite well shaped and will accommodate a couple of weekend bags

The latest model is bigger than its predecessor and is now 4020mm long, 1720mm wide and 1255mm tall (5mm more than soft-top models). Its wheelbase is 65mm longer than the Mk2, while the track is 75mm wider at the front and 55mm wider at the rear.

Underneath these smart clothes lies a conventional steel monocoque with structural use of high-tensile steels to improve safety and add stiffness, resulting in a 47 percent improvement in torsional rigidity.

Despite the increase in size and strength, Mazda claims the weight increase is minimal. Even so, the lightest models tip the scales at 1150kg, and with the folding roof and a 2.0-litre engine that increases to 1261kg. When the third-generation model launched, it weighed 1095kg – thank increased equipment levels for that.

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But the weight could have been so much more: Mazda keeps weight gain to a minimum with its ‘gram strategy’ - engineers were asked to think up ways of saving weight throughout the car.

As well as detailed tinkering - simplifying the rear-view mirror saved 84g, for example - there are more fundamental measures: the bonnet, boot, engine sub-frame and suspension control arms are all made from aluminium, as is the engine.

A mid-life facelift in 2009 included a new front bumper that now houses Mazda’s signature five-node grille, consigning the Lotus-Elan-style elliptical intake of the old car to history. Revised suspension geometry brought about a significant lowering of the Mazda MX-5’s roll centre up front, which also helped reduce the car’s ride height.

For the 2012 update, Mazda focused on the throttle and brake systems. Changes to the former claim to offer the driver 'more control when accelerating from low speeds' whilst a retuned brake servo is said to 'optimise brake return control'.

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