A new ver­sion of Mazda’s iconic MX-5 has hit the road — and it’s worth the wait.

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

IT’S here. At last. And great.

Af­ter more than a year we now know the all-new Mazda MX-5 is as good as we had hoped.

The pric­ing is sharp too, as Mazda Aus­tralia an­nounces 2.0-litre pric­ing from $37,990 off the back of the $31,990 start­ing sticker for the 1.5-litre MX-5. There are eight mod­els in to­tal, split be­tween Road­ster and Road­ster GT, 1.5 and 2.0litre en­gines, with man­ual or au­to­matic six-speed gear­boxes.

This week I’m driv­ing the car in win­ter sun­shine and it’s a pearler, fits like a glove, re­sponds to my needs and wants, and even copes hand­ily with lumps and bumps we never found on preview drives.

It’s a car that’s as light and sharp as the ’89 orig­i­nal, has a click-click six-speed man­ual gear­box, and a roof that’s an easy one-handed job to put up or down.

It’s only the 1.5-litre car, be­cause the 2-litre en­gines are still sev­eral months away, which raises some ques­tions and doubts. I’m a big fan of the baby mo­tor be­cause it has enough go for al­most ev­ery­thing and makes you re­ally drive the car in­stead of play­ing lazy, but its 96kW are chal­lenged on a cou­ple of long up­hill climbs on the drive and I know a lot of peo­ple will want the 118kW and 200Nm in the “big banger”.

De­sign­ers fo­cused on a cou­ple of key points for the new MX-5, from an en­gine that is set 15mm fur­ther back and 50:50 weight dis­tri­bu­tion, to the ef­fort that went into elec­tric power steer­ing and dou­ble-wish­bone front sus­pen­sion.

It’s also good to know there is Blue­tooth with speak­ers in the head­rest of the driver’s seat, but not so good to find you must pay ex­tra for the re­vers­ing cam­era and park­ing radar that so many peo­ple now ex­pect and de­mand.

On the road the weather is threat­en­ing so the top stays up for the first few kilo­me­tres, but only un­til the sun­shine breaks through. The roof fits se­curely, noise lev­els are rel­a­tively low and then there is the de­light of a fold­ing mech­a­nism that re­minds me of the ’89 car in its sim­plic­ity and ease of use.

Now it’s time for a few runs to the 7500 red-line, a chance to test the shift, and feel the work­ings of the sus­pen­sion.

The car is very com­pli­ant and that’s a sur­prise, be­cause too many sports cars are too firm for their own — and the oc­cu­pants’ — good.

There is in­stant re­sponse in ev­ery area and it’s easy to flow over crests with­out a pre­cau­tion­ary brake be­cause I know the car is go­ing to turn and go in any sit­u­a­tion. It’s a gem that’s be­ing pol­ished with ev­ery pass­ing kilo­me­tre.

Then I switch from a ful­lye­quipped Road­ster GT, with a big dis­play screen and body­colour tops on the in­sides of the doors and nicer trim, into the ba­sic 1.5 Road­ster and there is noth­ing that dis­ap­points.

As I’m park­ing for the fi­nal time I know the 2015 MX-5 is a land­mark car. With au­ton­o­mous driv­ing just over the hori­zon, it proves there is still a place for a car that’s all about the driver.

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