New Mazda Roadster (production prototype)

Mazda Roadster Review: “An instinctive and fun fourth generation, its riding comfort is the best” by Hideaki Kataoka

Finally, the fourth generation Roadster was unveiled. The ND Roadster that has been exhibited has a leaner and more dignified design than its predecessor.

Although it is small, it has a powerful presence. In the interior, it inherited a driver-oriented design in which the meter is placed inside the steering. However, the interior texture is unsatisfactory, perhaps because they strived to reduce its weight. The instrument panel is just resin and the meter panel and switches feels cheap. This, apparently, is no good.

It wasn’t only the size of the body; they also tried to downsize the power unit. The engine is a DOHC 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder called SkyActiv-G. Although the engine was placed horizontally on the Demio, it is placed vertically on the Roadster and many parts were exclusively designed.

First, I test drove the 6-speed MT.

One of the things I am particular about on this vehicle is the driving position. Despite the snug fit feeling, one can certainly take the optimum position. The placement of the pedals are appropriate, and I prefer it because it has a sense of unity, compared to its predecessor, when on the seat and driving.

The 6-speed MT is a short stroke; one can shift gears with satisfaction. The weight of the shift lever and the clutch pedal force are also balanced. The bucket-type seat has both good holding and support.

The 1.5-liter engine that uses the SkyActiv technology revs up to high rotation without difficulty. It lightly rotates until the 7500 rev limit rotation, and its response is fast. It is mated with a close-ratio 6-speed MT, and it exhibits a comfortable and stimulating speed.

Its liveliness increases as the rotation goes up and the sound of its engine is pleasant to the ears. Although the engine displacement was 500cc lesser, it does not insinuate a feeble impression if it keeps rotation above 3000. Nevertheless, it feels like the driving fun has increased compared to its predecessor.

The 6-speed AT also has a good finish. The sports mode can be selected and you can enjoy a pleasant ride if you use the paddle shift. Although it’s one step behind the 6-speed MT in terms of driving pleasure, the AT is easier to handle because it skillfully covers the thin and low rotation zone of the torque. You can entrust everything to the AT, and you can drive it like a family car.

The 6-speed MT has a 2500 rotation on 100km/h cruising. The quietness of the 6-speed AT vehicle from a low rotation, about 400 rpm, is one step ahead.

The handling is the part that can be appreciated most. I prefer its light cornering sense and light handling which is similar to the first generation NA Roadster.

Its responsiveness to the steering operation is accurate, and the vehicle changes direction, bringing you wherever you aim to go. Even when you execute a small steering angle, it picks up not only the load on the rear tires, but also on the front tires. It also shows nimble movement. Occasionally, an dragging behavior is perceived. However, a smooth and refreshing run is felt and emphasized by lightening the weight of the body.

Its difference from the first generation is its great and nimble handling. In addition, it is provided with a level of security and stability where the tires seem to stick to the road.

Regarding lane change done on the highway, I was able to return to the original lane as soon as possible without suffering from an unpleasant aftershock. The response is fast and the vehicle quickly changes direction without delay. However, there is noticeable body roll when cornering at high speed. The front exhibits an escaping feel. It easily adapts to the driver’s intention and a sense of grip does not disappear even when you feel that you are rotating the handle too much.

It is very comfortable as an open car. Although the wind was strong on the day I test drove it, the wind engulfing me was less even if it was open and I was driving on the general road. It is more comfortable than expected even on cold days, if you raise the side window and use the heater and seat heater. Even during high-speed driving, I was not bothered by the fluttering of the soft top as long as it was within the legal speed.

The suspension flexibly moves when you run through a rough road. I can also affirm that its riding comfort is the best among the successive generation Roadsters. A feel-good driving is possible, and indeed, the fourth generation ND Roadster is instinctive and fun.

â– 5 Star Rating
Packaging: ★★★★
Interior/Comfort: ★★★
Power Source: ★★★★
Footwork: ★★★★★
Recommendation: ★★★★★

Hideaki Kataoka │ Automotive Journalist

A freelance automotive journalist who works as editor for a number of Automobile Specialist magazines. He has tried his hand at writing for a wide range of journals, and always provides deep incites into such subjects as EV and other cars with low fuel consumption and next generation automobiles. A member of Automotive Journalists Association of Japan (AJAJ).

(Translated by Natassia Jeronne D. Martinez)