Prior to first driving the NC Mazda MX5, I must admit I was sceptical as to the reason why the little two seat roadsters have such a large following worldwide. I was always wondering why a vehicle with such a small capacity engine, compromised practicality and somewhat cliché symbol of middle age or hairdressers, could achieve such high praise. (Wheels COTY 1989 and 2005 for one)
Pessimistic thoughts clouded my mind prior to my first drive.
Slotting into the small cabin, I found my 186cm frame struggling to adjust comfortably. The MX5 appears to have been designed for left hand drive markets as the passenger footwell is roomier and flatter with no transmission tunnel protrusion. Adjustment of the tilt only steering wheel and back and slide only drivers seat (which is also disappointingly flat and unsupportive) only further added to my list against the MX5. At this point I was almost ready to leave and look at a Nissan 350Z or just throw my money at a Toyota 86. At least my friends wouldn’t laugh at me in a more “masculine” sports car.
Alas, once adjusted I found myself with adequate head and shoulder room even with the roof up. Staring down at a tidy legible set of instruments set tight amongst a gorgeous piano black dash strip.
Setting off, I was immediately impressed with the easy clutch action and slick six speed manual transmission. The slushy expectations were wallowing away at this point. The 2.0 inline 4 once above 4000 rpm is a firecracker of an engine. When taken to the 7000 rpm cutout, changing into the next gear leaves you right in the sweet spot of the power band above 4000 rpm. If this is how you like driving however, expect to be at the pumps more frequently for what should be an economical 2.0 4. Fuel consumption is a disappointment, even with highway cruising I was averaging around 8.0l per 100 km. Less zoom zooming should be considered if fuel economy worries you.
The trump card of the MX5 really is the ride/handling balance. The ride at town speeds over potholes, manhole covers and undulating bitumen is firm, yet comfortable. Even at high speeds, mid corner bumps do little to upset the composure and grip. The sharp steering with the meaty feel really adds to this experience. Further research and viewing the underside of the MX5 on a hoist in a workshop revealed the engineering effort Mazda had put in. An aluminium brace connecting the gearbox solidly to the limited slip differential to increase drivetrain rigidity. The engine mounted behind the front axle to contribute to the 50/50 weight distribution. Naturally 4 wheel disc brakes and fully independent suspension with a front double wishbone arrangement and McPherson rear struts. At around 1100kg, lightweight materials have been used extensively. Aluminium bonnet and boot lid and thin yet quality plastics. Engineering wise, Mazda have done it right.
A Fun driving experience is what Mazda would have you believe and they are correct. Oversteer at low speeds is very easy to induce and ultimately very controllable. A lack of VSC or Traction control is not a worry at all. High speed driving in wet weather still showed no signs of the car wanting to throw itself around and scare the hoon out of this 21 year old. Contributing to this I believe is the factory fitted Bridgestone Potenza 205/45R17 tyres. A side note on that, there is no spare tyre. Only an inflation kit mounted in the boot. A poor omission in my opinion considering the jack and wheel brace supplied. In fact it was enough to make me jam a space saver spare into the boot. Stop being stingy, car manufacturers!
Roof down, wind tunnel testing has proven very beneficial in the lack of turbulence evident in the cabin. Hairdressers need not worry for their fancy doo. Oddment storage in the cabin is more than acceptable and the Bose Stereo is brilliant considering its circa 2005 build. Although I did have to install my own auxiliary input.
My ownership experience in the three weeks I have owned this little roadster have been excellent, by far the best handling and most fun vehicle I have ever owned. The few minor drawbacks in comparison to the driving experience were not enough to throw me. If you want a great weekend car, or even If you have no priorities in life (like me) the MX5 will surely suffice.