Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say, and I think I’ve experienced that a bit with this week’s review car. It was one of those weeks; I didn’t get to drive the car as much as I’d like and felt it a bit when I handed it back.
Yes, the Mazda MX-5 roadster can have that sort of effect on you. I’ve had previous models and, with one exception, they charmed me. This Anniversary model, as it is called, is quite special.
Only a handful – 3,000 in total – are being made worldwide to mark 30 years of the little gem’s existence. As you can imagine, just a few (10) precious models have been allocated for the Irish market. Most of those have surely been snapped up.
In eye-catching Racing Orange, the soft-top version I had was ‘snapped’ via smartphones at least 100 times. People came out of shops, offices, apartments to look at it when I’d parked.
But why am I bothering you with a review of a car that you will not get the chance to buy? Well, I just thought I’d share my all-too-brief experience in it because it isn’t often any of us get the opportunity to sample one of the most successful cars of its type in the world.
Sometimes it’s just nice to drive and not have to anchor everything in relevance to the bottom line.
Relevance here, I suggest, is how a carmaker can come up with the fourth generation of a model that still brings a bit of magic to the drive. In its way it shows how, despite all the chaos and change in motoring right now, a car that drives and looks this well makes us realise motoring is not all about functionality.
And the MX-5 is not about functionality, I can assure you. For starters, it is a two-seater, as you know, and space is so tight that an extra few millimetres between my passenger and I would have made it feel downright cramped. (Funny enough, the boot takes two carry-on suitcases when the hood is up. Work that one out).
However, the charm offensive begins long before you sit in.
It starts with your first look; that low-slung typical roadster stance; the long curve of the bonnet and the short rear overhang. In vibrant orange, as I’ve already mentioned.
Then you sit in and a much visually improved cabin (previous models have tended to be dark and dull in contrast with the exterior) somehow makes room for you. That bonnet seems to stretch to the horizon from the low driving position but everything is relative.
Under its vibrantly coloured contours prowls a 2-litre, 184bhp engine with plenty of power to get you to 100kmh from a standing start in a respectable 6.5 seconds. Considering the car, surprisingly, weighs slightly more than a tonne, that is decent going.
And there’s a lovely note from the engine when you rev while static (sorry, neighbours, for the dawn chorus).
And then you are off, slipping easily into feedback that delivers the essential sense of closeness to the road (go-kart, if you wish) and a nimble response to the twists, turns, pickups and slowdowns that punctuated my all-too-brief drives.
It just purred along the M50; I preferred it on smaller, twistier roads, though I wish I had more of them because that’s where the joy of a car like this can be most fervently felt. That’s what is great about it. You don’t have to generate thundering speed for it to shine (Brembo brakes are standard in case you do); moderate velocity brings rich rewards.
You’ll not be overwhelmed with technology; they’ve kept it low key and just about on a par with a modern, new family hatchback.
It speaks volumes for the way it is made, I think, that it largely takes care of itself and relies on the common sense of its drivers.
Of course there are negatives – cabin space, price, practicality, noise when the hood is down – but it would be spurious to pursue further mention.
So, inevitably the question arises: would I buy it?
Yes, I would, at the change of a gear (assuming I had the disposable income, of course).
And I wouldn’t stash it away in a garage.
I’d drive it, and drive it some more, and let the hood down (there is an RF retractable fastback version, too, but I prefer the standard model) even on rain-threatening cloudy days.
And I’d count myself lucky that there is still someone in this world of gross complexity prepared to create something out of a simple decision to just make a great little roadster.
Facts & figures
2-litre, 184bhp, manual. €40,995. 155g/km, tax €390. Some spec: 17in alloys, Bilstein sport dampers, smart City Brake front/rear; twin exhausts, LED headlights, adaptive front lighting; rain/light sensors, auto air con, cruise control, heated Recaro seats, nine Bose speakers, black leather/Alcantara, orange stitching; 7in t/screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto.
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