By Ian Strachan
It’s finally happened. After years of road-testing Mazda MX-5s I’ve finally got to drive one in the sunshine. At long last I could put the roof down, confident I wasn’t about to get a drenching, writes motoring editor Ian Strachan.
The Mazda MX-5 is, incredibly, some 28 years old. But Mazda has managed to keep their iconic roadster fresh and competitive. In RF spec with a folding metal roof it looks terrific.
The MX-5 has been cleverly updated through the years, along with a few special editions, and has achieved cult status. This is a desirable car – still a head turner despite its longevity.
The latest MX-5 is shorter, lower, wider and lighter, with more power and improved fuel economy over its predecessors. But Mazda has preserved the appeal and style of the original, not to mention a fun driving experience.
I test drove the MX-5 RF 2.0 SE-L Nav which has a fun-to-use, short-travel six speed manual box as standard.
This is a tin top, with a powered metal roof which flips back and forth in a well-choreographed ballet at the touch of a button. It’s a slick operation, a far cry from struggling to get a manual soft top back in place in the pouring rain!
The MX-5 RF 2.0 SE-L comes at a competitive on the road price of £23,595 This includes smart alloys and satellite navigation, as well as bags of technology.
The shark-nosed MX-5 continues to look sleek and fresh. It’s a classic roadster with simple lines and some nice touches, like the sharply sloping headlamps, the squared-off rear window and attractive rear light cluster.
The 2.0 power unit puts out 160 horse power. It won’t leave you gasping with a 0-60 time of just over seven seconds, but it’s certainly quick enough and makes all the right noises. The gear shift is well-positioned and slick, with economical movement and you get more than adequate power throughout the range.
Handling is undoubtedly the MX-5’s strong point. It feels much bigger on the road than it actually is, with precise and responsive steering. Suspension is hard without being uncomfortable. Only the biggest potholes (and there’s a few of those) will cause you to jump in your seat. All round, the car feels poised and well-balanced.
Cabin layout is attractive and functional at the same time, with nice use of materials. There’s storage space for bits and pieces in the centre console and between the seats, and the glovebox is well proportioned for a small cabin. The folding roof takes up much of the boot space, but it’s deep and big enough for a decent-sized suitcase. If you’re taking three kids and a dog on holiday this isn’t the car for you.
Power steering, central locking, keyless ignition, electric windows and mirrors, automatic climate control, DAB radio and cruise control all come as standard on this model.
This is an attractive and stylish car, great fun to drive even with the top up. Fuel consumption is nothing to write home about at 40.9 miles to the gallon in mixed driving, but that apart, the Mazda MX-5 just keeps on going and keeps on getting better.