One of the things that is extremely unsatisfying about modern cars is how they all hide their technology below a proverbial bushel. You pop the hood, and nine times out of ten, you are faced with some amount of black plastic hiding the functional bits. On some cars the plastic covers the plain minimum to have a “presentable” engine. Others have each tank, hose, wire and screw buried under a layer of sleek plastic.
Few expatiate this practice better than engine bay of the present Lexus LS 460, seen below. If Lexus was this embarrassed about its engine, perhaps it should have simply barred the hood shut. However, like with power creep and weight gain, our fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata bucks the plastic trend. Lift the aluminium hood of the small roadster, and you travel back in time more than a decade.
Just one bit of decorative plastic is in sight, and it declares the car’s Skyactiv technology and hides some of the wires leading to the ignition coils. Otherwise, nothing else is obscured. The shock tower braces, manifolds, battery terminals, the entire shebang is all right there for you to see. What is particularly superb is that it all appearance good. Even in some cars that eschew plastic covers, it’s no guarantee of a gorgeous engine bay.
We simply had a brand new Honda Civic Sport hatchback, and while it does not sport a plastic engine cover, you can see from the image that it is not particularly attractive with tubes and cables snaking every that way. However in the Miata, the hoses and wires are kept to a minimum, and the ones that are there are arranged in a way that isn’t haphazard or tangled.
Then, in the middle, there is the clean, easy aluminium cam cover as the gleaming centerpiece, almost like those of the first and second generation cars. as the owner of a ’99 Miata, this detail in particular provides me the warm fuzzies. The totally exposed engine bay fits with the Miata’s personality. The car is extremely straightforward, it features simply the absolute minimum of style and luxury additions, and is highly accessible. I’d say the Miata’s engine bay is the window to its soul, if driving it did not provide a clearer picture.