----------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY------------------
Sometimes when I think of the of sea cars we've got in our games, I think of myself as a boss.
I'm a boss, and I've got some sort of a business, and I need to hire some employees to get this business off the ground. And
there are hundreds of out-of-work potentials sitting around; all of them claim they want to work. Many
of them have handed in their resumes, and appear eager to be chosen.
It is easy to think like this in the setting
Gran Turismo often places us in, especially once we get rich. We wind up with a bit of power. Just like a
boss. We can hire, we can fire, and we can seek that perfect employee for the job at hand. Some cars happen
to be perfect; just what we are looking for. Others? There's an expression that has become popular over the last
few years, started by Bart Simpon: MEH!!!
But when looking over the virtual pile of resumes,
one name starts to stand out over and over again. It's a Japanese fellow, who is up-front with the fact that he's a little
short on strength, but his resume happens to boast a long long list of accomplishments. He's not very strong, but he can handle
any situation he's faced with, and he's got the referenes to prove it. "I've won this series, and competed successfully
in this race..." bla bla bla. We are busy, and we don't have the time to check up on all these references, so is there any
truth to them?
The Mazda MX-5 became an overnight success in 1989, but idea for a "small, lightweight
2-seater, based on some of the classic sprites of the '50s and '60s" (my words) actually started way before 1989. Apparently,
an American named Bob Hall, who was fluent in the Japanese language, first pitched the idea to some of Mazda's brass
in the 1970s. Yeah...way back then. At some point in the 1980s, Mazda began to take the idea seriously, and held some
sort of a contest for their in-house designers to come up with a design. Mazda's American branch favored a front engine/rear-drive
layout (mimicing all the classics...the Lotus Elan, MG Midget, Alfa Romeo Spider, etc.). Mazda's Japanese designers
wanted to use either a front engine/front-drive or mid engine/rear-drive layout.
Some time in 1984, the contest
became more heated between all these engineers. Clay models were baked up, according to all the stories on the 'net, and then
compared. And once the concept went from paper to clay, the Americans apparently won: the new 2-seater would be FR. And it's
a good thing too.
...Not to get too far ahead of myself in this write-up, but if the MX-5 were to become FF, it would
not be such a perfectly-balanced automobile, nor would it be as unique. The world (at that point) was already full
of front engine/front-drives. FFs had become the best solution for fuel economy and practicality, but did we really need another
FF, and one which was supposed to be based on some classic roadsters from the past? ...If the MX-5 were to become MR or RMR,
it would be too easy to compare this car to Toyota's newest model of the day: the MR2.
It took another 5 years for
the MX-5 to make it to production, but several concept models were driven on public streets beforehand, always to positive
reactions. MX stands for "Mazda eXperimental", by the way. The car would be called MX-5 in Asia, but was called "Miata" officially
in North America, and Miata is an old German word that means "reward". Hmm. It's interesting, the way the Japanese constantly
use words and historical references outside of their own culture. Wonder why that is?
Anyways, the MX-5's targeted
price started at around $14,100, but in the States some dealerships were asking up to $17,000. They
could do this because of this new model's high demand and long waiting lists. Every sportcar enthusiast of the day
was interested, it seems, along with a healthy smattering of females. Over time, the MX-5 woud prove itself to be both an
amateur racer and a "chick car". :-) It had been many years since Europe had cranked out any FR-drivetrain, convertible
2-seaters, and Mazda was promising to revive all the good times from the past. They were promising all this, but they were
also promising a car in which the heater always worked, the soft-top never leaked, the engine reliable, and
the warranties were solid. These are all things that Alfa Romeo, Triumph, MG (etc.) definitely could not back up in their
day, even when their models were still relatively new.
There are dozens
and dozens of MX-5 models in our games. Too many, it would seem. V-special...S-special ... Eunos Roadster ... NA Special
Package....the list goes on and on. And as I decided to re-write this review from scratch*, I found myself wondering
which models should be chosen for the review.
*= There was a Mazda MX-5 review on my original
all-text site, written exactly a year after I started posting reviews on the 'net (May of 2005), but all the
text got lost! Some others which got lost were for the Mazda Lantis, Honda 1300S, Mazda
Since the '89 is the earliest, most basic model, and since it appears in all five GT games to date,
this is the one I've driven in all 5 games for this review. For your reading pleasure, I've also created up a
little chart below, which hopefully shall clear up what all the other versions in our games have in real-life. A lot of folks
say all MX-5s are "the same", and that we shouldn't have all these different versions in our game. Let's see if this is true.
any situation, the MX-5 (any model) starts off as a lightweight, highly-nimble machine.
----------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------
Once upon a time in the late 1960s, Mazda decided to try a vast experiment with their line of automotive
products, and introduced their first rotary-powered car: the RX-3. This was a huge gamble for Mazda; the rotary had not yet
been proven, and as it turned out, did in fact have some massive problems with longevity.
So what would have
happened if Mazda's rotary-engined cars failed to survive the '70s, and Mazda therefore went out of business? Well,
one of their top series would have never seen pavement. The RX-7 started off a sporty weakling, but eventually became a turbocharged
racing monster as the years rolled by.
...And it's ironic to think that one of Mazda's other major contributions
to the world of autosports was one which did not feature a rotary, and would not become such a monster, even after
turbocharged versions started to show up.
--------------CHASSIS / HANDLING--------------
Ah, it's 1997 all over again! It's been ...jeez...how many years since I've fired up the first Gran Turismo.
For a car like the MX-5, such a regression is absolutely necessary. For the sake of this review,
I've got the
North American version of Gran Turismo, of course, so I don't know what's available in Asian and PAL versions. But from Day
1 with just 10,000 credits to my name, an '89 Mazda Eunos Roadster 1600 can be bought. Its color is 'silver
stone metallic'. Good deal. It costs $9,650, which menas I've only got $350 credits to spare. Will
this be a problem?
Thing is, I have actually driven lots and lots of these over the years, in GT, GT2, GT3, GT4,
and GT5, I've just not written about them faithfully. But I know what the MX-5 is capable of, and how it handles and maneuvers
Going back to the original GT was a small shock, to be honest, but in this game the '89 Eunos Roadster
1600 basically does what it's been praised at all these years: it handles flawlessly. Understeer is non-existent.
Not that these roadsters understeer a lot in later games, but they do understeer somewhat. Not in the first GT. The
'89 is also very tossable from Day 1 on its "normal"-grade tires. Throttle-induced oversteer is very light out of
Autumn Ring's tightest areas, but it never becomes a tire-smoking fest like we'd experience in a Corvette or a TVR.
all times, the '89 remains completely within its handling limits. Yes, it is slow, and hasn't got much torque or power, but
those 118 horses also do get to have their complete say in any gear and at any speed, once the tach is nearing
6,500. Can we say the same about a Griffith or an NSX?
But let's backtrack a moment. If the front-end
isn't understeering, what exactly is it doing, then? Well in the first GT, the Eunos Roadster is grabbing
instead, sometimes annoyingly so. This is something which does not happen in later Gran Turismos. The front-end grabs, and
the car can actually wind up sliding because of this. Getting a little sideways. ...Not that any of this is
a major problem, it's just something this car (and a lot of others) tends to do in the Mother of all Gran Turismos. It's something
to be aware of, basically.
I decided to take my silver used '89 Mazda through a bit of Simulation mode, by the
way. I didn't just do a few laps around Autumn Ring Mini.