I've always enjoyed driving and after owning a tuned XR5 Turbo for 8 years, I had the desire to go back to a car that was all about the drive, not just power.
Taking a Toyota 86 for a spin left me feeling a bit underwhelmed, however, after sliding in to the cabin of a Mazda MX-5 RF I knew I was onto something special.
Fast forward to just under two years down the track and I still love every time I get the chance to get behind the wheel. Whether it is the boring grind to work, or an early weekend morning belting along a favourite back road, the MX-5 never fails to give me a stupidly big grin.
The main element that you notice every single drive is the lightness. Sure the RF isn't a powerhouse, and yes it will get beaten from a set of lights by a hybrid Camry, but show it a set of corners and it will perform at levels miles above what you would ever expect.
The lack of power is fine when it weighs only slightly over 1000kgs. The brakes are small but don't have to deal with much mass so they feel adequate. The steering, whilst electric, is intuitive and you automatically feel at one with the car. It builds confidence so easily and goes exactly where you want it to at all times.
If you come in to a corner too hot, just lift off the throttle or give the brake a deft touch and you feel the line tighten. It becomes something you don't even have to think about.
Many talk about the MX-5's manual transmission as being the benchmark on which all transmissions are compared. Even with that prior knowledge, I still remember how impressed I was with the shifting action (lets avoid using the rifle bolt cliche here) and the pedal action all being so simple to learn.
Within no time I was finding any excuse to heel and toe. Firing in to a corner under heavy braking, heel and toe. Having to only slightly slow down for a corner, yeah lets give that another go. A light stab of the accelerator results in a satisfying crack of the throttle as you snick the shifter home into the desired gear. All this makes you feel like you're Peter Brock, even if you're more related to Peter Griffin.
When you're not pretending to live out your boy racer dreams, the MX-5 is a car that is extremely good on fuel, can easily see figures in the 5L/100km range, and has a great roadster presence and feel.
The steering wheel is a classical tri-spoke unit which does a good job of giving a nod to roadsters of old whilst remaining an up-to-date and satisfying unit to use.
Being the GT variant, there are heated seats and beautiful nappa leather on the seats, doors and dash to give the RF a high-class feel.
The infotainment screen works well, and the 9-speaker Bose stereo does a good job pumping out the tunes. The driver's headrest has two small speakers in it, which is used to broadcast phone calls, meaning you don't need to share your conversation with the rest of the world.
The interior is, in a word, snug. I freely admit this is the one time in life where being a short guy has worked out for me. The cabin is a selfish place where everything is laid out for the driver. All the controls are in the perfect position for spirited driving, whereas the passenger gets robbed of what little room there is by a subwoofer in the floor.
Those who are over six foot should be able to find a way to make the driver's side reasonably comfortable, but won't have a good time as a passenger.
Unfortunately headroom isn't fantastic and this really only becomes an issue when you want to take the RF on track. Even at my height, once a helmet goes on, my head touches the roof, which is problematic if you're not allowed to run top-down.
Living with the MX-5 is easy but not without its drawbacks. Other road users will find it hard to spot you, shopping for anything larger than a 24 pack of toilet paper requires decent Tetris skills, and the doors are deceptively long which makes parking a process you need to give some thought to.
Despite that, the MX-5 RF is a car that has made me fall in love with driving all over again. Is that corny to say? Of course it is, but it is also true. Just shy two years of ownership and I still look for any excuse to head out in the RF.