Bring back the fun

Mazda’s throw­back to the sport­ster era was a great drive

Herald Sun - Motoring - - USED CAR - with Gra­ham Smith

NEW

The re­lease of the orig­i­nal MX-5 in 1989 sig­nalled the end of one of the most bor­ing pe­ri­ods in mo­tor­ing his­tory, a pe­riod in which the fo­cus was on safety and the en­vi­ron­ment, and fun was frowned upon. The cute lit­tle Mazda sport­ster went against the grain; it was all about hav­ing fun on four wheels again.

It was a roar­ing suc­cess, rekin­dling a de­mand that had laid dor­mant since the demise of the af­ford­able Bri­tish sports cars a decade or more ear­lier.

A fun, civilised car to drive it was per­fect for those who wanted to cruise down the free­way, but with its great chas­sis dy­nam­ics it more than sat­is­fied any­one who wanted a more thrilling ride.

By the re­lease of the NC model in 2005 it had un­der­gone a num­ber of changes, but it still re­tained its orig­i­nal ap­peal.

The NC was a lit­tle big­ger, looked more ag­gres­sive, was stronger and safer, and boasted more fea­tures.

At first the MX-5 was of­fered only as a two-door con­vert­ible with a neat, easy to use fold­ing soft-top, but a hard­top coupe with a fold­away hard roof that de­liv­ered the best of both worlds was in­tro­duced in 2006.

If there was a crit­i­cism of the orig­i­nal MX-5 it was that it lacked real per­for­mance. To ad­dress that com­plaint the NC had a larger 2.0-litre four­cylin­der en­gine for bet­ter per­for­mance and fuel econ­omy.

A slick-shift­ing six-speed man­ual was the driver’s choice of gear­boxes on of­fer, while cruis­ers could opt for the sixspeed auto with pad­dle shift­ing for a bit of fun.

A Se­ries II up­grade ar­rived in 2009 with a few cos­metic re­vi­sions; the en­gine was smoother and more re­spon­sive, and the sus­pen­sion was tweaked for bet­ter han­dling.

An­other up­grade in 2013 boasted mi­nor styling changes, im­proved trim, and re­vi­sions to the brake and throt­tle feel.

NOW

Un­like the Bri­tish sports cars of old, which while fun to drive were poorly built and un­re­li­able, the MX-5 had the solid build and re­li­a­bil­ity that we’ve come to ex­pect from cars from Ja­pan.

It had all the fun of the old sports cars, but with­out the need to carry a box full of tools and a boot load of spares when you went for a drive.

Own­ers we con­sulted told us they couldn’t be hap­pier with their MX-5s. There were no tales of un­re­li­a­bil­ity, break­downs or any­thing else to spoil the fun of own­er­ship of a truly great lit­tle sports car.

There is no in­di­ca­tion of roof leaks that can make driv­ing an open car mis­er­able when it rains, but check the roof any­way for any signs of dam­age that might re­sult in a leak.

Make sure you check the hard roof on the Road­ster coupe to en­sure it goes up and down smoothly. While the MX-5 is gen­er­ally re­li­able it won’t with­stand an abu­sive driver, so look care­fully for signs that a car had been thrashed, or raced. If it has holes that sug­gest a roll bar has been fit­ted, or other bits of kit used in com­pe­ti­tion, walk away.

You should also be aware that the NC doesn’t have a spare wheel; it only has a re­pair kit.

Like every used car it’s most im­por­tant to check for a ser­vice record that hope­fully shows the MX-5 you’re keen on has been prop­erly main­tained.

Gen­er­ally, though, it’s a beauty.

OWN­ERS SAY

Oliver Hol­loway I bought my 2009 MX-5 with 40,000 km on it and after an­other 60,000 km I can hon­estly say it has been ut­terly re­li­able and noth­ing but fun to drive. I love it.

Stella Wat­son My Road­ster coupe is not the fastest car around, but it looks good, is great to drive and very smooth.

Janette An­der­son I had a 2006

NC for three years and loved it. I par­tic­u­larly loved the looks, it was fast and nippy to drive, and the cor­ner­ing was great.

Ol­lie Bick­er­ton The MX-5 is bril­liant; it looks good, han­dles, brakes and steers bril­liantly. The only com­plaint is that it isn’t very fast.

Ross Dyson I have a ’98 NB that has done 155,000 km. We live in the coun­try, in a driver’s par­adise, which is per­fect for the MX-5. It’s sim­ple, pred­i­ca­ble and so much fun to drive. I have no plans to sell it.

SMITHY SAYS

For a fun-filled sports car there’s none bet­ter than the MX-5.

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