Its success has surpassed even the most optimistic forecasts. By 1990 more than 10,000 Mazda MX-5s were driving over European roads between the Arctic Circle and Gibraltar.
European sales figures soared to over 21,000 in the peak year of 1999. In 2003, despite unfavourable economic conditions, approximately 18,700 European buyers chose the Japanese roadster, including over 9,000 sold in the UK, making last year the third most successful in the car’s history.
One of the secrets of this success is the consistency in design that has characterised the Mazda MX-5 during the last 15 years. And although some roadster purists regretted the passing of the pop-up headlights when the second generation was launched in 1998, sales figures for the new Mazda MX-5 soared at this time. In addition to new headlights, more comfort and a slightly more modern design, the roadster was generally better equipped and to a higher standard. In short, the cheeky roadster had grown up.
Roadster fans were always enthusiastic about new impulses coming from Mazda, which resulted in a series of special editions, the most famous being the ‘10th Anniversary’ edition. All these special editions were available in limited numbers and they subsequently evolved into cult objects.
The engine performance also evolved over time. A 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that produced 116bhp powered the original Mazda MX-5. In 1994, a 1.8-litre engine with 130bhp joined the range, and the 1.6-litre engine was recalibrated to 90bhp, to ensure sufficient differentiation between the two power units.
The second-generation Mazda MX-5 in 1998 saw the introduction of new versions of both four-cylinder, 16-valve engines. It was now possible to choose between a 1.6-litre 110bhp or a 1.8-litre with 140bhp.
In 2001, the performance of the 1.8-litre engine was hiked to 145bhp with the introduction through sequential valve timing and a six-speed transmission was introduced to the regular line-up. Previously it had been available only in a limited edition.