The MX5 was of course not the first sports car to be
manufactured by Mazda, but it was the first to use a more
traditional engine design. (The preceding Cosmo coupe
and RX7 sports cars used rotary internal-combustion engines).
With the MX5, Mazda proved to the other big car manufacturers
of the world that small, relatively cheap sportscars could
be built in large numbers again - and most importantly
at a profit.
Many claim if it were not for the MX5, manufacturers such
as Alfa Romeo, BMW, Porsche and even Mercedes would never
have followed suit and produced small, reasonably affordable
roadsters. No one can deny that the MX5 has had a huge
impact on the market and a development of the new range
of affordable sportscars.
The MX5 owes much to the Lotus Elan, as that is where
its designers sought inspiration - although Mazda
always wanted to ensure that its car would be more
reliable and solid than the little Lotus. They also
wanted to ensure their new sports car offered modern "sedan"
type comfort levels, despite the inevitable noise and
climate problems associated with a "rag top".
The MX5 was re-skinned for 1998 - regrettably losing
its pop-up headlights in the process, but the car remained
essentially unchanged. It is difficult to improve a
car that is already just about ideal - unless of course
you add a turbo - but that is another story.