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RPM TV Website | September 10, 2019

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A pair of Japanese legends: Mazda revitalises MX-5 and Honda confirms Civic Type R

Mazda MX-5
Adam Schoeman

Mazda MX-5

Although, and this has been the case with most motor shows over the last few years, the primary theme of the Japanese Motor Show has been electrical vehicles there have been a subtle undertow of performance based news.

The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ making appearances as well as Honda’s confirmation of a new NSX are some of the highlights so far, but a due of old guard sports cars have also hit the confirmation fast track.

Mazda has continued championing its idea to turbocharge the MX-5 and shed its kerb weight to an impossibly low 800 kg, while Honda has confirmed that a new Civic Type-R will see production.

The worlds most popular roadster will receive a small 1,3-litre turbocharged engine, while the larger displacement 1,8 and 2,0-litre four-pots fall away, but the addition of some forced induction will no doubt help the MX-5 at the lower end of the rev band as well as saving weight. The Civic Type-R on the other hand will retain its signature stratosphere high revving naturally aspirated V-Tec engine and non-compromising handling.

The MX-5 has never been a performance beast, but the cars excellent chassis tuning and predictable handling (a great attribute when you want to get the tail out) has made it a favorite of driving enthusiasts the world over, which is a sentiment that is shared by Honda Type-R drivers, who had their car imprisoned by the European emission controls after the latest incarnation of the Type-R engine failed to pass their tests, and have been waiting for a performance Honda ever since.

It will be interesting to see what Honda does to win over the emission commission, since they are not going the forced induction route, and will probably employ a strategy of low friction parts and improved injector technology, along with that class leading handling.

Mazda on the other hand has comparatively cheated and gone for a completely new and non-heritage engine in the form of a turbocharged 1,3-litre. The small unit will have no trouble passing the strict emission controls but that is not what Mazda has to worry about – they have their own loft goals that need to be addressed in the form of a weight cutting goal which seems unreachable.

The bosses at Mazda have stated that they want this MX-5 to weigh in at a minute 800 kg, which is 175 kg lighter than the original 1989 roadster – but before Euro NCAP safety standards dictated the degree of re-enforcement that was required on passenger vehicles.

But the weight loss regime is more than just a way to save the planet, because at 800 kg, the MX-5’s little 1,3-litre engine only needs to produce 93 kW to be on par with a Clio RS’s power-to-weight ratio. Very little tuning will be needed to make the MX-5 extraordinarily quick actually.

It will probably be another year, year and a half before all is revealed, but so far things seem to be very promising.

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