FIRST WORDS

Total MX-5 - - FIRST WORDS -

Ac­cord­ing to the hys­ter­i­cal main­stream me­dia, it’s pretty much game over for us car en­thu­si­asts. The gov­ern­ment has an­nounced that sales of new petroland diesel-en­gined cars are to be out­lawed in Bri­tain by 2040 and an al­l­elec­tric fu­ture ush­ered in. Mean­while, au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles will re­move the no­tion of driv­ing plea­sure al­to­gether: soon af­ter that, if I might be per­mit­ted to fuel the hys­te­ria, I fore­see the car’s role as the means to per­sonal free­dom van­ish­ing, as a ‘higher author­ity’ dic­tates on which roads you can travel and at what time of the day. There’ll be no place in the Brave New World for the Mazda MX-5 and all that it pro­vides and rep­re­sents.

Yet I have a feel­ing – and a hope – that things won’t ac­tu­ally turn out that way.you have to re­mem­ber that politi­cians have a fond­ness for pre­tend­ing they thought of ev­ery­thing first and they’re at the van­guard of mak­ing the world a bet­ter place. Bold pro­nounce­ments, with­out care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion or proper ex­am­i­na­tion of the facts, are their stock in trade. Just has to make a good sound-bite.

For­tu­nately there are bet­ter in­formed heads at work in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, and with luck they will pre­vail. Elec­tric cars and hy­brids will be crit­i­cal for the fu­ture – au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles less so, they’re more of a fash­ion thing – but the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine, with much im­proved ef­fi­ciency, is also seen as a vi­tal part of the mix.

For­get 2040, Mazda is on the brink of launch­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of petrol en­gine, the SKY­AC­TIV-X, which runs so lean that spark plugs can’t ig­nite the mix­ture: in­stead it uses com­pres­sion ig­ni­tion, like a diesel, com­bined with a su­per­charger. Com­pared with cur­rent Mazda en­gines, CO2 emis­sions are claimed to be down 20–30 per cent, with torque up 10–30 per cent. Win, win. Zoom-zoom.

Also en­cour­ag­ing is that Mazda’s sus­tain­abil­ity mes­sage – which in­cludes elec­tric and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles – is backed by a de­sire that all its fu­ture models will en­rich their driv­ers emo­tion­ally: they’ll be fun to drive. The MX-5 is in safe hands.

Brett Fraser, ed­i­tor brett@bret­tfraser.co.uk

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