The doctor told me to do it
MONTH 5 MAZDA MX5 RF
THE MX5 ISN’T a practical car and it’s not even a proper soft-top, so why buy one? Well, one of the greatest pleasures I’m getting from living with the Mazda is how it spices up my daily commute, in a way that only a proper sports car can. Sorry to come over all MG Owners Club, but it’s true – the feelings you get from the MX5’s steering and through the seat of your pants aren’t available in any hot hatch or sports saloon. It’s all to do with its low centre of gravity, light weight and direct steering – you can attack corners and roundabouts, and the Mazda will respond to every input instantly. It’s tactile and rewarding, and at the end of every day I look forward to my 15-mile drive home.
It’s also challenging, once it’s really loaded up. Sure, the 2.0-litre engine isn’t massively powerful, so the powertrain isn’t intimidating; and despite our Sport Nav model having slightly stier suspension, the RF is softly sprung, giving you body roll through bends. But don’t be lulled into thinking it’s a lazy loafer: the MX5 starts to feel edgy like a frightened cat when you’re really pressing on, and you sense that small movements have a big eect. Yes, it’s wonderfully benign when you’re just pootling along, but along a back road at nine or ten-tenths, you have to be alert in a way never required in a Golf GTI. The MX5 expects things of you – Mazda uses that phrase ‘Jinba ittai’ in its MX5 advertising, referring to the connection between a horse and rider. Most of the time that’s a load of crap of course… but when you’re really driving quickly, there is something in the concentration you need, the sensitivity, the sense of balance.
Of course all of this is magni¨ied tenfold when you turn the traction control o. The 2.0-litre engine’s 158bhp means you don’t have to worry about a powerslide in the way you would if you were driving a Dodge Challenger, but that sensitivity to your inputs at speed means it’s pretty easy to induce a slide by lifting mid-corner. In the dry it’s hard to prolong a slide because the engine doesn’t have the power to spin up the wheels, but if you want a quick, tail-out ¨lourish as you peel out of a roundabout, it’s predictable and great fun.
That’s in the dry – in the wet you have to be much more cautious. Traction control o in the pouring rain, even third gear will get you oversteering, and if you try that lift-o trick the MX5 will snap so far out of line you’ll be looking at the road out of the passenger window. I’ve had a couple of near spins – for scienti¨ic research, of course.
But listen, if you don’t want to spin your brand new, rear-drive sports car in the wet, don’t worry, leave the traction control on and the Mazda is perfectly safe… but if like me you enjoy a car that can challenge you, the MX5 is simply a gift from Mazda to the world.