Let me preface this with an admission of insanity, and a request to withhold judgement as you would for anyone with such an unfortunate addiction.
For the last 18 months I have owned a superb, immaculate and low kilometre example of Mazda’s fantastic MX-5. An absolute riot to drive; its road manners are only matched by its excellent fuel consumption and reliability.
It would seem that this story has a happy ending; man buys car, man enjoys car, man keeps a healthy bank balance. A happy ending indeed, except for a month ago when the man went and bought an older, much more tired MX-5.
Unfortunately during my time owning and driving my excellent 2001 MX-5, I fell in love with the original 90’s model, with its pop-up lights and smiling ‘face.’ I suppose it’s akin to having a crush on your high-school girlfriend’s older sister, only more expensive and quite possibly more emotionally turbulent.
So, one month ago I purchased a 1995 MX-5, it has a dinged door, some surface rust, needs new brakes and the paint is peeling in places.
Despite the original model’s legendary reputation as a wieldy corner-carver, it’s left wanting in more than a few areas.
First and foremost is the driving position. The original model’s driving position is perhaps the worst that I have ever encountered, and not just compared to other sports-cars. I’m an average sized bloke; 6’1” and 80kg, but I cannot sit in the car without my knees touching the steering wheel. This isn’t helped by Mazda’s omission of tilt and reach adjustment for the wheel, and lack of height adjustment for the seat.
So, like a pair of shoes, you either fit the car or you don’t; which is a pain, because I don’t… Joy.
The car is very noisy, in good and bad ways. The induction and exhaust sounds are fantastic; Mazda did a really good job of recreating a classic English four-pot growl. However, thanks to the MX-5’s lack of any real insulation, you can also hear the diff, gearbox, the wind, the rain, stones being flicks up by the tyres and, well, I won’t go on.
The lack of insulation works both ways, as I recently found out by singing along to the radio and being told to shut-up at the traffic lights by a lady in a Commodore. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was missing a front tooth.
So you’re probably starting to think that I’ve wasted my money on an absolute dog of a car, but this is not the case.
First of all I love the design of it, it’s a happy car. It has a big, stupid smiling mouth and pop-up eyes for headlights. In the short time I’ve owned it I’ve gotten several sets of thumbs up out on the road and kids pointing at it as I drive by. It’s like driving around in Brum.
But really I love the MX-5 because it’s a mosquito of a car. Running the spurs over the Victorian Alps, the Mazda responds quickly and predictably to steering and throttle input, and can handle adjustments mid-corner without unsettling like heavier cars. It’s an excellent car for a blast around some twisties, as it delivers it’s thrills within licence friendly speeds and let’s you know that you’re being dim well before you end up in a tree.
On the track, the Mazda is extremely neutral; as you dig into the throttle coming out of turn four at Phillip Island the whole car loads up and it inspires extreme confidence. It won’t oversteer unless thoroughly agitated, which is difficult to do on Melbourne’s wide and sweeping race tracks. I suppose that’s where it’s reputation originates; it’s communicative beyond just the steering, pedals and gearbox. You feel the road through the seat in such an intuitive way, which is buried beneath layers of weight and insulation in other cars.
I’d continue, but I’ll cease before I collapse into the usual MX-5 related cliches and before I use the words ‘driver’s car.’
Oh, I’ve just said it, sorry.