Last month I bought a new car. And when I say new car, it would have been new back in April 1990. These days my original NA-series Mazda MX-5 is 28 years old. In an age of increasing technological features and safety standards, squeezing into the tiny MX-5 is like stepping back to a bygone era.
The first thing you notice is the diminutive size of the vehicle. It is so short and low to the ground that sometimes I think it would be wise to stretch before entering so as to not pull a back muscle. You really do sit low to the ground, especially compared to the plethora of SUVs that rule the roads these days. I distinctly remember the feeling of driving 100km/h on the freeway and my head being level with the top of a truck tyre as he stormed along next to me.
And then there is the weight. Only 930kg to move around. How many other cars can you think of that weigh less than 1000kg? This lack of weight certainly is a necessity given the 1.6-litre engine at its freshest only produced a meagre 85kW and 130Nm of torque. But the MX-5 as we know is not built for the drag strip. Its true home is tight, twisty corners and quiet country roads.
During my first drive, I had a smile on my face within minutes. My initial impression was that this car did not feel like it was 28 years old. The steering was direct, the short-throw manual gearbox had an accurate and confident feel, and the brakes pulled the car up effortlessly. I instantly fell in love with the car and began my quest for some befitting tarmac that could really highlight the MX-5’s capabilities.
I’ve recently been lucky enough to drive through the Dandenongs and the Great Ocean Road, and can confidently say that this is an immensely impressive and fun car. It has no power steering, no ABS, no traction control, no fancy torque-vectoring system, and not even any airbags. And yet for me, these are all positives. The car just rides so low and flat through the corners that you don’t even need to touch the brakes. The slightest input from the steering wheel and you are through the corner before you know it and seeking the next one. This is not a car that’s passed its use-by date – this is a simple and raw experience that brings you back to pure driving enjoyment.
In terms of cabin space and technology, well, both are virtually non-existent. It has two seats and a small glovebox, and in my case the original cassette radio has been replaced with an aftermarket CD player. However, these items are largely irrelevant, because with the roof off your senses become amplified and you are connected with the outside world in a way no modern car can replicate.
I bought this car with the view to participating in track days and weekend social events. With club permit registration only costing $75 for the year, this is an affordable way for enthusiasts to pursue their motoring passions. So far my MX-5 has been extremely reliable and a source of great entertainment, and I’m always looking forward to the next occasion I can take it out for a spin.