The all-new 2015 Mazda MX-5 is a pivotal model for the Japanese brand, but its styling has caught the world by surprise.
With elements such as slim headlights, a gaping air intake and small, rounded tail-lights, the new MX-5 has set chins a-wagging and emails a-flying at the CarAdvice office.
As such, we’ve put together a “Hit or Miss” group-opinion piece on the styling of the fourth-generation version of the iconic Japanese roadster, which has been 25 years in the making.
Mike Costello (who is on the international reveal launch, and has seen the car in person): Hit
In the metal, it's actually delightful. Its overhangs are minute, it sits lower and wider on the road than before and the driver is mounted amidships.
There is deceptively complex surfacing work on the side panels which, combined with the stubby tail gives it the slightest hint of BMW Z4. The flares over the front wheels look almost Italian, and the high waistline gives it some muscularity.
This thing has real presence, and pays homage to a number of high-end convertibles out there at twice or three times the price. Fussy and overly-small headlights aside, this man on the ground gives it a thumbs up.
Jez Spinks: Miss
You always need to see a car in the metal before making conclusive judgment on styling, but first impressions? Not sure this is going to be the most convincing application of Mazda’s Kodo design language.
The styling looks awkward when viewed from the front three-quarter, particularly with those overly small and squashed headlights (shame the original’s pop-up lamps couldn’t return).
Rear end suggests influence from BMW Z4 (shape) and Jaguar (tail-lights).
The Corvette-like drooping bonnet is also a break from the previous models, though otherwise the MX-5 still wears a ‘face’ and the profile proportions are also in keeping with tradition.
Of course the beauty of the MX-5 has always been about what lies beneath.
Matt Campbell: Miss
This thing looks like my pet axolotl. For those of you who aren’t aware of what an axolotl is (or looks like), Google it and draw your own conclusions.
Those squinty eyes, that gaping maw, and the cheap looking tail-lights have left me a little bit shell-shocked. I have loved the styling of every MX-5 to this point – even the more feminine ones! – and while I know there are some cars with confronting styling that grow on you over time, I’m fairly sure this isn’t one of them.
And where’s the number plate going to sit at the front? Just like the Mazda 3 (which I lovingly refer to as bucktooth), this one’s going to be ruined by a state plate, particularly if it's a black-on-yellow NSW one.
Trent Nikolic: Miss
Mazda... What have you done?
An icon such as the MX-5, a modern classic, needs the gentle touch of evolutionary design. Not revolutionary.
I've loved the MX-5 since 1989. The original styling hit the nail on the head and so did every subsequent release. Sure, the MX-5 got a little heavier and a little less lively, but it was always a beautifully styled sports car.
This new one misses the mark by some margin. It doesn't matter how fast you're going or how little body roll you're showing around corners if you look ugly while you're doing it. Some people will love it. I'm not one of them.
Alborz Fallah: Hit
Apart from the original, I have never been a fan of the MX-5. Its girly shape and over-compromised interior has often made me wonder what the point was. Yet this new fourth-generation is set to change all that and my first impressions - just on looks alone - are that it may actually do just that.
My initial thoughts were that it was hideous, with over-styled Japanese cartoons coming through, but it's 2014 and if cars can't push the envelope of design and challenge existing concepts, then we are missing something. Mazda decided not be conservative and go for something different and I, for one, give it my tick of approval.
Tim Beissmann: Miss
I’m a big fan of Mazda’s Kodo design language, particularly the CX-5 and new Mazda 2, but my eyes say “No Deal!” to the ‘ND’ MX-5. Squinty headlights, a guppy mouth, and a rear that looks like an anime version of a Jaguar XK…
It’s always hard to know for sure on a 15-inch screen, though, so I’ll reserve final judgement for when I see it flesh.
The cabin looks very slick, however, so if it drives as well as Mazda promises, I’ll still happily slide behind the steering wheel.
Tegan Lawson: Hit
Like Mike, I find it reminiscent of the BMW Z4, particularly the elongated, curved bonnet. Yet the side profile and front-quarter shots make it look unbalanced and front heavy, yet somehow I still find it strangely appealing.
James Ward: Hit
I think it looks great. Mike’s shots from the live reveal look better than the press jobbies as far as ‘real’ looks go.
Like Jez and Mike, I think there’s a bit of BMW Z4 to it, particularly its front haunches.
Put me down for “looks good!”
David Zalstein: Hit
I'm excited! Yet to see and feel it in the flesh my initial impressions are positive. Smaller and lighter than the previous generation car - a hoot in its own right - the new car looks sharp and, most importantly, is again rear-wheel drive and has three pedals.
It also looks like there just might be something a little fun hanging off the side of its new engine's manifold...
Overall verdict: Hit
Well, there you have it – the majority of the CA team (currently present!) has voted in the affirmative for the new-look MX-5.
There’s always the argument that pictures don’t always tell the full story (as Mike can attest), and we can't wait until later this year when the car is launched locally to get our collective eyes on the car.
In the meantime, tell us if you consider it to be a Hit or a Miss below.