Once the combination of RWD layout and an open-top body had been agreed on, the engineers coined the development concept, “Jinba Ittai” (which means “rider and horse as one”) to express the type of fun-to-drive roadster they intended to build. “Jinba Ittai” continues to symbolize each new generation of MX-5 and ensures that it will always remain true to Mazda’s original dream of a lightweight sports car.
The team narrowed down the possible engine choices to a 4-cylinder 16-valve 1.6-liter inline DOHC engine. They decided to stick to natural aspiration, without any turbo or supercharger. The MX-5’s Jinba Ittai-infused fun-to-drive character was realized by neither a surprisingly high output nor advanced engine control technologies.
While keeping mechanical losses and engine resistance as low as possible, the team achieved a smooth engine power curve and linear acceleration up to the rev limit; characteristics that provide an exhilarating experience for the driver.
In order to ensure adequate feedback when changing gears, engineers created a “powerplant frame” to rigidly connect the transmission and differential. It significantly enhanced the performance feel and became an essential technical element in the evolution of the MX-5.
For the suspension system, the development team chose a double wishbone setup for all four wheels, due to its superior dynamic characteristics. Despite the extra complexity this involved, the engineers never thought of compromising in their pursuit of the best possible sports car. The suspension is another reflection of the engineers’ dedication to “Jinba Ittai.”
Even today, the “Jinba Ittai” spirit lives on in the third generation MX-5. The latest version of Mazda’s iconic roadster was born from the belief that “Only a very few sports cars possess the enduring spirit seen in the MX-5.”