2009 Mazda MX-5 Review & Road Test
The horse and rider are going to enjoy themselves
- 2009 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0-litre manual - $48,775
- by Karl Peskett
It's tiny. Parked in my garage, alongside our long term Santa Fe, the MX-5 is completely dwarfed. There are only a few cupholders, and the footwells are quite tight. For these reasons, Americans won't be flocking in droves to lay down their hard-earned on the new MX-5.
The rest of the world (us included), however, might be more inclined to do so. There's something about this little car that is enamouring. It's not any one specific reason, and it's more subjective than you'll find written on a stats sheet.
Regardless of the model - we spent a week in the Roadster Coupe - the attributes which attract carry through the four model range. There's a certain snugness about sitting in it, with its low-slung, legs ahead seating position. The steering wheel sits perfectly in front of you, very close, but without feeling uncomfortable. Your arms are bent, and the driving position feels quite old school.
Pedal position is perfect, although the dead pedal is a little close to the clutch for my liking. Heel and toe changes are possible, but only at 8/10ths and above, where your harder brake force aligns your heel with the accelerator. That means that only when you're fully into it, the drive experience all comes together.
The gearbox is also a gem, with a stubby lever and short throws, which can be a little notchy when cold, but it always has a solid, heavyish feel. It's the connection you feel with the car that draws you in. Nothing brings that to the fore more than the perfect steering.
The feel is brilliant, there's a direct ratio when wheeling, and the weighting is sublime. For the price, there's little else which feels this good on the road. Every rock and bump is transmitted through so you know how your sidewalls are coping, but it never is too much to wear you out.
It's best on a cut and slice piece of road, where you hunker down and concentrate on the road, your apexing and your braking points. Find a mountain course somewhere, and you'll be in seventh heaven.
There is, however a slight downside to the MX-5. It comes about every time your on one of those roads, too. The whole Jinba Ittai philosophy is more than just some clever marketing spin. The "rider and horse as one" mentality truly has been conveyed throughout this car. But the blessing and malediction comes with its suspension.
It has a beautifully judged ride - one of the best going around, in fact. But the slightly softer tune which enables it to soak up the bumps we have on our harsh roads means that in quick changes of direction, there's an accompanying roll which doesn't sit well with its sport-like pretentions, and excellent steering.
You get so wrapped up in the feel of things that you go blasting through the corners, and then the whole package wallows about, which is a little disconcerting. It's not over the top, and really the limits are higher than it initally portrays. But a mid-corner backing off the throttle will unsettle the car slightly, though the seat of the pants feel is so strong you never feel the car will get away from you.
Still, a change of springs would be all that's needed, and then you have such a fun little car, that you don't care it only has two seats. It's an enjoyable guilt, knowing you can't carpool, but you'll have fun every time you turn the key.
The interior build is first class, too, and there's plenty of storage options around. Even the boot is usable and doesn't lose any volume when you drop the lid. Just make sure you're in neutral, and completely stopped when you do press the convert button or it refuses to budge.
The other annoying thing is the windows don't come all the way up or down when the conversion motion has finished, like almost all other convertibles do. Bear in mind that it's a manual unlock and relock of the roof each time.
But the windscreen is far enough forward to not impede your view, and you end up with one very good Sunday drive car. Actually, make that any day of the week. The 2.0-litre engine is free spinning, and linear in its power, and it sounds smooth and unfussed, so you're happy to rev it out and make the most of it.
Even when you do, it's pretty economical, putting away 8.1 litres for every 100km. And of course, there's the full swathe of safety equipment with front and side airbags, DSC and traction control.
The MX-5 hasn't really lost what it always stood for. A fun, two seat convertible that allows you to extract the most out of it, Jinba Ittai is still evident. But unlike sitting on a horse, in these winter months it's a case of windows up, roof down, heater cranked, and you sit in a cocoon of warmth while the cold air rushes over the top.
Thank goodness it doesn't rain a lot in Australia.
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