Evolution of an Icon
To renew the MX-5 for its third generation, Mazda engineers focused on evolving the lightweight sports car concept while acknowledging that this new generation must follow the tracks of a modern motoring icon. MX-5 program manager Takao Kijima not only looked ahead to understand how the motoring world’s needs have changed since the original MX-5 was launched, he also looked back to pinpoint what made this Mazda so special in the eyes and hands of car enthusiasts the world over. What he found was an intensity of spirit possessed by very few sports cars.
Lots of Fun Concept
Throughout the 16 years of its existence, the MX-5 has always been defined in terms of the fun it delivers. This distinctive character is called ‘lots of fun’ by Mazda because the pleasure delivered includes but goes beyond driving enjoyment. In addition to providing the driver a sense of command over a spirited machine, the MX-5 offers the driver and passenger a sense of being in intimate touch with their surroundings. Other dimensions are the pride conveyed by the MX-5’s attractive design, the enjoyment of customizing its appearance and function to suit personal tastes, and the joy of meeting friends in a car that’s so universally admired. Fun is truly a multi-dimensional MX-5 quality.
New Fish Bone Chart
The long list of attributes that ultimately lead to the JInba Ittai goal line - oneness between car and driver - were arranged in six new fish bone categories: driving, braking, cornering, listening, touching, and styling. Then, to achieve true synergy between those discrete categories, a cooperative framework was created to help developmental team members be more aware of the progress of the entire engineering process.
Four of these cross-disciplinary categories drawn from Kansei Engineering principles are:
LIGHTNESS - even though the new MX-5 is slightly larger than its predecessors, keeping it as light as possible improves every aspect of performance. A gram strategy was critical to the lightweight cause. Related imperatives are a low centre of gravity, 50:50 weight distribution, and the lowest possible moment of inertia in the yaw plane.
CONSTISTENCY - the balance and natural interaction between driving, cornering, braking, and listening aspects requires a harmonious approach. A special team was created to study various components - shifter, steering wheel, control pedals, etc. with the aim of achieving a high degree of balance and consistency in the car’s overall personality. Liveliness and nimble behavior in every dynamic move were deemed critical to maximizing driving enjoyment. Handling was selected as the MX-5’s focal point and every other performance aspect was drawn into harmony with that primary criterion.
PERFORMANCE FEEL - how the car feels in the hands of a sensitive driver was subdivided under five descriptive headings - linear, lively, powerful, torqueful, and smooth. This emphasizes the more subtle tactile relationship between car and driver over raw indices such as acceleration and cornering-g figures. Establishing these subheadings helped coordinate the evaluation and optimization of all the performance attributes.
CRAFTSMANSHIP - in addition to static attributes, the development engineers also concentrated on new dynamic aspects of craftsmanship. To this end they conducted in-depth research into the dynamics of driver behavior, focusing on the driving position, the layout, operation and feel of the controls,, the harmonic engine sound, the tactile aspects of the interior design, and outward visibility.