Mazda's revamped MX-5 drop-top has gone on sale in Japan today, sporting a fresh front end, a new set of boots and tweaked mechanicals and performance.
The most distinctive changes for 2009 occur ahead of the A-pillar, with Mazda grafting on a fresher, sharper 'face' - as well as the biggest grin ever seen on an automobile. The front airdam has been reshaped to bring it into line with Mazda's current Nagare design language, and the end result is an enormous smile that spans roughly half the car's width. Cheeky? Cheerful? You bet.
The foglight enclosures have been revised too, and there's now a pair of canard-like protrusions at the bottom corners of the front bumper. The front guard flares are now a smidgen more prominent and the MX-5 (or Roadster, as it's known in Japan) looks more purposeful for it.
The 2009 MX-5's rump is much the same as the old model - save for some redesigned tail lamp clusters and a rear "diffuser" - while its flanks are mildly updated by the addition of more prominent character lines and sideskirts. Retractable Hard Top models get some extra chrome trim around the grille, headlights, foglights and door handles.
Two new wheel designs - a 16-incher and a 17-inch - jazz up the MX-5's exterior further and there are three new additions to the car's colour palette: Metropolitan Gray Mica, Aluminium Metallic and Sunflower Yellow. Call us extroverted, but we'd pick the yellow.
The MX-5's interior has been warmed-over by the addition of a new instrument cluster, an auxiliary audio input in the centre console, more heavily bolstered seats and a swathe of metallic trim across the centre of the dashboard. A Bose seven-speaker stereo is optional across much of the range, as are leather seats. Recaro racing buckets trimmed in cowhide and Alcantara are also available for the more adventurous MX-5 driver.
The 2009 MX-5 is still propelled by the same 2.0 litre MZR four-cylinder as the outgoing model, except this time around Mazda has turned up the wick just a tad. A forged crankshaft, stronger wrist pins and stiffer valve springs have allowed Mazda's engineers to raise the redline from 7000rpm to 7500rpm. Peak power is unchanged but it's now generated 300rpm later at 7000rpm, meaning drivers can now hold onto gears longer and keep the engine working harder. The induction plumbing has also been reworked to "amplify the throbbing noise" (their words, not ours) and provide a fruitier engine note. End result? A wider powerband, a more rev-happy engine, and a car that's an even greater joy to take down to the local track day.
The sychroniser cones of the six-speed manual now feature a carbon coating, which smooths up gearshifts and makes rowing through the gears an even more pleasurable experience. Note: the six-cog manual is only available on the up-spec RS model, with the lesser grades making do with the old five-speed. Not to be outdone, the six-speed auto gets an upgrade too, with new shift mapping and adaptive programming injecting a sportier feel to the slushbox.
The front suspension roll centre height has been lowered by 26mm to improve handling and the chassis now features stiffer materials and components for added rigidity and better NVH suppression. The RHT models also get a foam-filled front crossmember and added insulation in the hard top too, making it the quietest and most comfortable of the lot.
The 2009 MX-5/Roadster is now on sale in Japan from just 2,330,000 ($38,130 AUD) for the five-speed manual ragtop. A release date and local specs for the Australian market have yet to be firmed up, but you can expect the RRP to remain close to the current model's starting price of $42,000. We'll keep you posted.