Mazda MX-5 Superlight Concept

Stripped-out MX-5 concept ditches windscreen and creature comforts in a bid to save weight

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

For dramatic looks and immersive driving please, the Superlight is an engaging plaything. With more power and a little more protection from the elements it would be a very fun weekend toy. But the bigger news is that this previews a more focused, efficient and lighter direction for future MX-5s and other models in the Mazda range.

If you like your roadsters with a few more wind-in-the-hair thrills, then the Mazda MX-5 Superlight could be just the car for you!

Built to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Mazda’s iconic roadster, the Superlight was unveiled at last month’s Frankfurt motor show. However we’ve taken it off the show stand and driven the back-to-basics prototype in its natural environment − the open road.

And if it looked outlandish on the turntable, in the real world it’s even more of a head turner. Aside from the carbon fibre panels around the cockpit and a 30mm reduction in ride height, the exterior is almost identical to the standard MX-5. However, the lack of windscreen and the large roll hoops visually lengthen, widen and lower the Superlight, making this the most masculine-looking MX-5 ever.

Inside all that remains from the production line is the basic dashboard architecture, which is retrimmed in tan leather. Bare metal doors and floor ensure that there’s nothing besides a neatly integrated iPod to distract you from driving. Even the heater has been removed.

By placing the MX-5 on a crash diet, Mazda’s crack team of designers and engineers have reduced the MX-5 Superlight’s weight to just 995kg. So despite using the lower power 125bhp 1.8-litre engine from the production MX-5 ¬− the featherweight concept can still accelerate from 0 to 62mph in just 8.9 seconds. But on the road it’s the visceral onslaught that reveals so much more than raw performance figures.

Slip into the racing carbon fibre seat, pull the four-point harnesses tight around your shoulders, thumb the starter button, pull up the clutch and, with no windscreen to protect you from the elements, it’s pure driving pleasure turned up to 11, even at modest speeds.

Acceleration is keen rather than crushing but is accompanied by a sporty rasp from the twin exhaust pipes. The snappy five-speed gearbox is a delight to use, too.

But the real difference can be felt during cornering where the reduced weight and uprated suspension bring the light, accurate steering to life. There’s virtually no body roll and grip levels are impressively high. In fact, almost too high as the engine doesn’t have enough torque to slide the rear while exiting tight corners.

A full-face helmet would be essential for longer journeys although the firm ride is surprisingly comfortable and fuel economy is a very impressive 45mpg thanks to the low weight and small engine.

Overall the MX-5 Superlight is a fun and extrovert character that distils the essence of sports car driving pleasure. While it hasn’t been confirmed for production, there is a desire within Mazda to build a very limited run for those wishing to add a fair weather toy to their garage, a role it would fill perfectly.

Rival: Lotus Elise S It might have the luxury of a heater and a windscreen but Lotus’ entry-level model is still a for no-frills, lightweight sports car. And when it comes to fun it’s hard to beat.

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