The roadster that’s streets ahead
14 September 2011 12:32am
That Mazda’s MX-5 is great fun to drive is well documented. It’s fair to say that for the money there really isn’t another roadster that gets near it. You can spend a great deal more money and still not have as much fun as you’ll have on a sunny day in an MX-5, or a cold winter’s day for that matter with the heaters on and your hands taking turns to warm in the blowers’ hot air flows, or indeed any day at all when you can get the chance to drop the roof and fly about the British countryside.
Because the MX-5 – despite being Japanese – is about as British a little sports car as you can get. Mazda’s designers set out to emulate classic little sports cars like the 1962 Lotus Elan when they created the car way back in 1989. This they have done, very successfully too. So successfully in fact that the Mazda MX-5 is in the Guinness Book of Records as the best selling roadster of all time – more than a million have been built – and Mazda is able now to sell not one but two convertibles – a soft top and this Roadster Coupé version which has a power folding tin top that folds into the boot in around 12 seconds. That’s quick enough, by the way, to avoid panic in a torrential downpour like the one I experienced on a hiking trip with a friend in the Derbyshire Dales.
I’ve been wanting to drive this version of the MX-5 to see what all the fuss is about. Because with this clever folding roof version, Mazda has taken the company’s formula for a simple, rear-wheel-drive, open-top sports car and made things trickier for itself by adding the weight and complexity of a folding roof. Usually such things have a negative effect on a car’s performance but I find the extra 37kg of little consequence to the fun I’m having. There are few cars you can throw around as confidently as an MX-5 and the 158bhp 2.0i engine in our Sport model sees the car accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. This is not blistering fast. However it does feel more than fast enough because of the way in which the car has been engineered. Uprated Bilstein dampers and the six-speed manual gearbox further add to the enjoyment. I find that I can carry a lot of speed in to the bends and out again and when the engine is fully wound up. And it sounds good too – I find I’m having the most fun I’ve had in ages. I feel like a kid again.
Inside, the car is comfortable and simple. There’s leather and an impressive Bose audio system. We find interior noise is greatly reduced by the folding roof when it’s up. Unusually for a two-seater there is also enough room for two plus all of their weekend hiking gear.
The MX-5 is a brilliant little sports car. Even with the addition of this clever roof system I find this tow-seater has lost none of its magic. You can pick a version of the MX-5 up for less than 20k and though there are other cars for similar money that are quicker I don’t think any of them are as entertaining as this two-seater.
THE FACTS: MAZDA MX-5 ROADSTER COUPE 2.0I
TOP SPEED: 136mph
CO2 G/KM: 181g/km
MPG COMBINED: 36.2mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY *****
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