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Roy Lewis road tests the Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Tech six-speed says little wonder it’s so good to drive
8:00am Friday 20th April 2012 in Road Tests
AT-A-GLANCE Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Tech six-speed.
Price: £22,635 (on the road).
Top speed: 132mph.
0-60mph: 7.6 seconds.
Fuel: 36.2mpg (combined figure).
Verdict: Great fun to drive, superb handling, stylish, well built, reliable but not very practical.
MAZDA, masters at making sports cars, has hardly changed the basic design of the MX-5 since it was introduced way back in 1989.
There have, of course, been very worthwhile updates, but the winning formula remains largely the same – a simple appeal which is a big draw for wind-in-the-air enthusiasts who rave about the car’s driving purity.
The MX-5 majors on low weight, moderately powerful engines, very good handling characteristics, bullet- proof build quality and value for money.
The present model is certainly easier to live with and, arguably, the most stylish. It’s also slightly bigger, safer, better built and more powerful than its predecessors.
But it is far from being overloaded with new technology which seems to be largely reserved for a recently- launched special edition MX-5 with satellite navigation, i-pod and Bluetooth connectivity, heated leather seats and climate control.
The main production model comes with plenty of thrills, however.
It’s good to drive and will put a smile on your face soon after you slip into the snugly-fitting driver’s seat.
There are two petrol engines – a 1.8-litre with 126bhp and 2.0-litre with 160bhp. Both perform well but the 2.0-litre with a short-throw sixspeed manual gearbox is quicker and smoother and the car is generally better equipped. There is a soft-top version and one with a lightweight folding metal top which is far more secure and a popular choice given the vagaries of the British weather.
The electric roof mechanism couldn’t be simpler as the top quickly folds into the boot at the touch of a button and leaves decent room for a couple of weekend suitcases.
The cheaper soft-top model has huge appeal, with prices going from £17,990 to £21,125 while the hard-top version sells from £19,990 to £22,635. On the road the 2.0-litre feels very lively with the car’s light body and well-suited rear-wheeldrive chassis giving it excellent balance and plenty of grip.
Indeed, it is the chuckable nature and the ability of the motor to rev so willingly that rewards the presson driver. Inside, the car can become noisy at speed but this is like music to the ear when you are enjoying the drive.
The steering is sharp and communicative and when you get used to it you feel very much in command of the situation. And the ease of handling encourages you to push on when the road ahead is relatively traffic free.
While the new cars are a little roomier, you wouldn’t buy an MX-5 for space. The cabin can be cramped for large adults and the 150-litre boot, while reasonable for this type of car, is definitely not a family holdall.
However, it’s a more comfortable ride than you might expect with the MX-5 travelling over poor-surfaced roads with surprising composure.
And at speed there is no vibration or scuttle shake that can be the bugbear of smaller sports cars.
The cabin is expertly fitted and laid out with the plush leather upholstery on the Sport Tech model giving the interior an upmarket appearance. While there are a number of useful storage compartments, unfortunately there are no proper side pockets - presumably because of the lack of room. The top-specification hardtop Sport Tech model is the best equipped with stability and traction control, climate control, MP3 connection, Bluetooth and alloy wheels.
Few cars can rival the MX-5 for reliability. In fact, there are many first-generation cars still on the road which goes to show the good build quality of the MX-5. It also boasts good resale values when the time comes to trade in your vehicle.