I had my ‘quarter life crisis’ towards the end of 2017. I realised that life’s too short to wait until you’re an empty nester to experience the thrill of driving through twisty mountain roads with the roof down, feeling the breeze through your hair (while you still have it). Hence why there is a red convertible sitting in my garage.
MX-5’s have always had a special place in my heart. I remember being a kid playing Need for Speed games and choosing the MX-5 as my go-to. My love for the classic roadster definitely has not faded with time and throughout my ownership experience of this car it has continually surprised me with how much fun can be had behind the wheel of a 1.5-litre engine.
The numbers this car produces is never going to knock anyone’s socks off. Pushing just 96kW and 150Nm of torque, the performance is hardly anything to brag about. But I wouldn’t let that put you off, especially considering this car only weighs a little over 1000kg and the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine howls up to 7500rpm – you’ll definitely feel like you’re going faster than you are. The beauty of this car is its ability to provide you with the same thrill of something much faster without reaching the speed limit too quickly, so you’re actually able to push the car to its limits without losing your license.
Steering is agile and sharp so you have a lot of confidence going into corners at speed knowing exactly what the front wheels are doing. I would have preferred if the brakes had a bit more bite as I have felt them struggle at times going fast down a hill, but of course there are plenty of after-market options if this is a problem for you. I also love the feel of the MX-5’s short-throw gearshift. I actually learned how to drive manual in the MX-5. I think that’s testament to how driver-friendly and intuitive this car is – the placement of the throttle and brakes also allows for heel-toe so there have been plenty of times where I have felt like a novice race car driver.
In terms of liveability, it’s a pretty tight space to spend long drives in. For someone who is taller than 180cm, getting in and out of the car may pose some problems. The MX-5 sits pretty low so you may also need to consider whether this would present a problem if you’re thinking of getting this as your daily runabout. There’s also limited storage space in the cabin. In Mazda’s pursuit of weight saving there are no side door bins or even a storage compartment in front of the passenger seat. Instead, there’s a small cubby space behind the driver and passenger seats and a glove box that can pretty much only fit your mobile phone. Boot space isn’t terrible for a typical roadster – it’s perfect for a weekend getaway, but don’t expect to be picking up your friends from the airport in this thing.
The GT model comes with all the bells and whistles you would need – BOSE stereo, heated seats, climate control, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, keyless start / entry and leather seats. The interior is also tastefully put together with contrast red stitching which gives the car a bit more of a premium feel than say a Toyota 86. If I had the chance to option the car from factory I would probably also add in a rear-parking camera, as visibility can be pretty limited, especially with the roof up. Additionally, being 161cm with pretty short arms I have also found it difficult operating the soft top from inside the car. As a result of my size, I always need to get out of the car to push the roof down and lock it in place – a problem you most likely won’t have if you’re taller / have strong arms / better shoulder flexibility than I do. But, just putting it out there for my shorter friends.
Mazda’s infotainment system is easy to use, albeit a little clunky and slow at times compared to other manufacturers. But by no means is that a genuine gripe I have, as the focus is purely on driving when you’re in an MX-5.
Fuel economy is also ridiculously good. I barely find myself needing to fill up, even after a spirited weekend drive. Averaging around 6.1L/100km, the MX-5 doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet in order to allow you to really push it.
If I’ve learned anything as an MX-5 owner, it’s that driving pleasure isn’t always dependent on horsepower, downforce and straight-line speed. For the money, I really don’t think it gets much better than this. Simply put, there is no other car in the market that delivers the same level of enjoyment in a rear wheel drive, naturally-aspirated convertible. The MX-5 is in a league of its own and hopefully a car I will never have to sell.