Rag­top that takes off like a scalded cat

Macclesfield Express - - MOTORS -

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

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