CarsMotormouth Reviews

Mazda’s magnificent new roadster is great fun to drive

Mazda’s magnificent new roadster is great fun to drive

This week I was driving with the top down in 35 degree heat. And – I couldn’t care less what people thought of me.

A young man – well I’m not that young – driving a two-seater convertible brings with it a barrage of abuse. Driving anything sporty with the roof down in Ireland can lead to many looks of disapproval. Having the ability to read peoples’ thoughts, poser seems to be the one word which crops up most.

Thankfully I wasn’t in Ireland, and the glancing looks I got were ones of approval and jealousy. I was driving the new Mazda MX-5, and if the sunshine in Barcelona wasn’t enough, the car was just glorious.

Arriving back in the torrential rain brought me back down to earth quite quickly – and my hankering for more MX-5 in the sun became obsessive.

The MX-5 is an iconic car, and Motormouths rank it among the best roadsters of all time. It’s a two-seat sports car for the masses, with an affordable price tag, and go-kart handling that puts a smile on your face every time you drive it. This fourth-generation model has taken the iconic roadster to a new level, and if anything, has made it more appealing for the men who crave some wind in their receding hairlines.

The previous models were excellent, but they often pigeon-holed as being a young ladies car, with smooth lines being favoured over a more dynamic look. This new MX-5 is definitely one for the boys as it has a much sharper look to go with the reputed handling Mazda’s sporty little number is famed for.

The beauty for Mazda is that the MX-5 is a bit of a niche car. There isn’t really anything that competes with it. Yes, you can pit the fabulous Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLK against it, but they are more than €10k more before options.

The new MX-5 starts at €27,995 and for that you get the best little roadster around. A new 1.5 (129bhp) will be offered in Ireland with a more powerful 2.0 litre (158bhp) only available in the UK.

Many will crave the higher-powered version, but the 1.5 was a brilliant little engine. It lacked a little torque which would help it coming out of tight corners, but the steering and gearbox are so good, you’ll love firing it into a bend and moving through the gears to extract the most fun.

The MX-5 is all about driver thrills and what it lacks in outright power, it more than makes up for in agility. The front-engined rear-wheel drive, lightweight set-up is the perfect combination for this sporty little roadster. Mazda has stuck with this layout over the years, and it is by far the best set-up for an engaging drive.

With any new model, more equipment, improved safety and better quality materials usually mean adding weight, which would be the MX-5s biggest downfall. Mazda though has stuck to their roots and made this latest model almost as light as the first generation. 

Mazda’s European Design Chief, Kevin Rice, told me: “The recipe for continued success in the MX-5 is to keep its lightweight design and at the same time make it even more fun to drive.

“The DNA of any Mazda is to deliver a car with beautiful design and a sporty nature. The team has delivered with this new model making it ever more engaging, more efficient and, even more pleasing to look at.”

The test route around the hills of Barcelona really tested the MX-5’s agility, and it was outstanding. The steering is just phenomenal and every manual gearbox should have the feel of the short-shift Mazda box. I found myself switching gears more often as the mechanical feel was excellent.

You just point the car at a corner turn in and there was absolutely no fuss whatsoever. Even when aggressively thrown into a tightening bend, there was no sign of understeer.

The Mazda MX-5 is available with one engine and two trims in Ireland. The 1.5 is a really good unit, and you won’t pine too much for the 2.0-litre version. The Roadster starts from €27,995 and the Roadster GT from €29,995. In my eyes, it’s great value.

Mazda is pushing their cars more upmarket with a premium finish and classy designs. They have one of the best-looking stable of cars currently on offer. The MX-5 really adds a touch of class to the line-up and showrooms – which are set to be improved to fit with the new standards Mazda is setting – now have a showpiece that customers will be drawn to.

The Porsche 911 and Volkswagen Golf are two cars that stand out as icons in my eyes. Add to that list the Mazda MX-5. It’s a sports car that makes you feel alive, and one that you’ll treasure.

Paul Keown