Just don’t mess with suc­cess

Re­view. With a new MX-5 on the hori­zon, let’s hope Mazda sticks with its Mi­ata for­mula for fun and af­ford­abil­ity

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - DRIVE - MIKE GOETZ drive@metronews.ca PHO­TOS: MIKE GOETZ

No­body rocks the con­cept of a fun and af­ford­able two-seat road­ster quite like Mazda. Then again, no­body else re­ally tries any­more.

And who could blame them? Why invest in a sep­a­rate plat­form, which is hard to share with other ve­hi­cles, for a shrink­ing pool of buy­ers?

Th­ese cars don’t ex­ude the pres­tige they used to in North Amer­ica and Europe, as crossovers con­tinue their un­re­lent­ing path to com­plete ve­hi­cle dom­i­na­tion. And there isn’t much de­mand for them in China and other emerg­ing mar­kets, per­haps de­feated by con­cerns about the weather, traf­fic and pol­lu­tion, and a pref­er­ence among the rich to be chauf­feured rather than drive them­selves around.

All of which makes the MX-5 even more pre­cious to those of us who still en­joy driv­ing.

From its in­cep­tion in 1990, the Mi­ata was con­ceived as a car to pro­vide the most driv­ing joy per dol­lar, by keep­ing en­gine size and power in check, and con­cen­trat­ing on light­ness, bal­ance, driver feed­back and simplicity.

And although the car was re­named the MX-5 in 2006, Mazda hasn’t strayed from the script since, in­clud­ing the all-new 2016 MX-5, which is wait­ing in the wings.

Com­pared to most ev­ery- thing else on the road, the Mi­ata/MX-5 is a small and pre­cise gem. And the 2015 25th-an­niver­sary edi­tion is even more gem-like, with some el­e­gant cos­metic touches, and a knock­out Soul Red Mi­cra paint job.

With just 100 an­niver­sary edi­tions avail­able in Canada, they sold out months ago, but you can still buy the equally im­pres­sive 2014 GT model.

The MX-5 of­fers very light and ag­ile han­dling. The 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine likes to rev, but takes pre­mium fuel. Its 167 horse­power are not over­whelm- ing, but ev­ery­thing feels faster when you’re this low and con­nected to the pave­ment. And the man­ual gear­box is one of the most sat­is­fy­ing to use in autodom.

The ride is not as stiff as you might ex­pect, be­cause it doesn’t need a stiff sus­pen­sion for han­dling, but it is a bit noisy on the high­way.

The cabin is tight, but cosy, with minia­ture con­trols and lit­tle stor­age space. Your legs go straight out, with no bend to the knee.

The op­tional power hard­top roof is slick, but the man­ual top is su­per light and easy to use. The trunk is small but sur­pris­ingly use­ful.

Net re­sult: The MX-5 is one very fine, two-seat, con­vert­ible sports car.

The cabin is tight but cosy, with minia­ture con­trols and lit­tle stor­age space.

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