Baby Mazda MX-5
Wednesday 4th June 2003
The company which kickstarted the roadster revolution more than a decade ago is to inject fresh energy into the fast-moving market once again.
Mazda will return to its roots and produce a small, affordable two-seater to rival the likes of Citroen's recently launched C3 Pluriel and Vauxhall's forthcoming Corsa-based Tigra. Insiders tell us the new model is set to follow the name of the company's legendary MX-5 sports car by being badged the MX-2.
The daring machine will make its debut as a concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, and buyers can expect a showroom arrival late in 2004. It's a move that's sure to delight cabriolet lovers on a tight budget.
The newcomer is based on the recently launched Mazda 2 and will be powered by a 1.3-litre engine offering around 70bhp. This should result in a 0-60mph time of around 10 seconds, while the maximum speed will be electronically limited to 112mph. Initially, the MX-2 will feature a five-speed manual gearbox, but the firm is believed to be considering an automatic for markets where self-shifters are more acceptable to sports car buyers, such as Japan.
Although the drop-top remains a well guarded secret within Mazda, Auto Express has discovered that the newcomer is referred to as the 'Compact Open Sports' project, and seen as vital to furthering the company's heavily publicised Zoom-Zoom advertising philosophy. Designed to sell alongside the hugely popular MX-5, the MX-2 will be aimed at young drivers and those who don't need the practicality of a bigger, costlier cabriolet. Top brass feel this could also be the perfect second vehicle for drivers who spend most of their time in mile-munching machines such as the critically acclaimed Mazda 6.
Our sources tell us the car, which will be lightweight and fun to drive, is expected to be priced at less than Ł10,000. Costs will be minimised by using as many components from the 2, and the soft-top's interior will be similar to that of the recently launched supermini. But, as our picture shows, the exterior will be more adventurous.
Designers are likely to be given free rein to create a distinctive front and rear because much of the bodywork in these sections is plastic, so it's cheaper to modify. And there are at least three designs under consideration. The first resembles the one seen here, while the others have different headlamp and grille arrangements. Mazda's interest in the budget sports car sector will come as no great surprise to anyone who has watched developments in this rapidly growing sector over the past year.
Not only will its latest baby have to overcome tough competition from such rivals as the Tigra, but the MX-2 also faces challenges from the likes of the stylish Ford Streetka and hi-tech Smart Roadster. Uniquely, a class of cars that barely existed 12 months ago is now one of the most competitive there is.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....