Ragtop that takes off like a scalded cat
IT’S the world’s best selling sports car – having taken the crown from the likes of our very own MGB and Midget almost three decades ago.
So when I got behind the wheel of this week’s test motor – the fourth generation, all new Mazda MX-5 – I was expecting big things from this little ragtop.
Especially as The MX-5 has just been voted Car of the Year in the 2016 UK Car of the Year Awards to add to its success as 2016 What Car Awards Best Convertible and 2015 Auto Express Awards Best Roadster. Within the first few hundred yards I had to join a busy roundabout. Spotting an opening, I booted the 2.0-litre normally aspirated petrol engine... and the car was off like a scalded cat.
It really is quick, seeming even faster than the quoted 7.3 second 0 to 62 time, and has the ability to carry on to 133mph… although It would be a braver man than me who attempted that feat as – with your bum inches from the road, just a canvas roof and other traffic towering above – you seem to be going a lot faster than you actually are.
That low driving position, coupled with new electronic power steering and a perfect 50:50 weight distribution (it is 100kg lighter than the old car and back to the same weight as the smaller 1989 original) means the MX-5’s handling is also all you would expect from a true sports car – although also means a slightly harsh and choppy ride on motorways.
So performance and handling are all good – even better than the best-selling outgoing model – but what about the looks?
Well no problems in that department too – the MX-5 has always looked cute but now it’s got a bit of an edge – looking like a scaled-down Jaguar F-Type – It’s somehow a bit more aggressive and mean-looking than its more rounded predecessor, and the engine emits a suitably matching growl as you let its 160 horses run free.
The original MX-5 has become a true classic with thriving owners’ clubs. The first generation was similar to the Lotus Elan and the engine size has grown over the years from 1.6 to 1.8 and now 2.0, but with a 1.5 option with 129bhp and slower 0-62 time of 8.3 secs.
Now regular readers will know I am a big Mazda fan, having owned a now mega-rare Mk1 RX7 for over two decades which, despite its age, always functioned perfectly down to the last knob and switch. And that is probably why Mazda took MG’s crown… reliability and build quality – two words little used at British Leyland in the 1970s and 80s.
Inside the MX-5 it is all very snug with a proper sports car driving position and all the controls on the uncluttered dashboard falling easily to hand.
There is a central colour screen for sat nav, DAB radio and CD control and vehicle functions – although not touch screen as Mazda favour the German-style rotary knob control, which I find a little more fiddly than the straightforward touch screen systems now used by most manufacturers.
And there is no driving mode selector or eco start-stop system… it’s a sports car so the mode is, quite rightly, permanently sports.
At motorway speeds I was pleasantly surprised as the MX-5 is quieter than I expected with little wind noise considering you are in a car with a canvas roof.
Our test motor was the top-of-the-range 2.0 160ps Sport Nav, which meant red stitched black leather heated seats (a big plus in a convertible in winter) 17” alloy wheels, sports suspension, a premium sound system which includes speakers in the headrests, keyless entry and lane departure warning. MPG figures are reasonable for a performance car at just over 40 overall.
There were lots of admiring glances as the latest MX-5 was only launched in the UK at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, with first deliveries in August, so not many have yet found their way onto our roads.
I suspect as soon as the summer weather arrives that will change as this little car really will be affordable fun in the sun as the all-new Mazda MX-5 range is priced from just £18,495 up to £23,295 on-the-road.
There are five trim levels – SE, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and our Sport Nav. Two SKYACTIV-G petrol engines, a 1.5-litre, 131ps and a 2.0-litre 160ps are offered and all feature LED headlights, alloy wheels and a really sweet six-speed manual gearbox.
There is also a limited edition Recaro with special seats and body trim. Available in only metallic red or white, just 600 will be sold with each bearing a unique number and costing £24,295.
For more information call Mazda Manchester on 0161 452 4406 or visit www.rrggroupmazda.co.uk.
●● More of an edge, the 2016 Mazda MX-5