David Bonnici spent a week with Mazda’s award-winning MX-5 roadster and found it more than lives up to the hype.
As luck would have it, Melbourne’s dry spell broke the morning I picked up the MX-5 from Mazda HQ, which meant having to leave the roof up as I headed back west along the Monash Freeway.
This allowed me to gain a first impression of Mazda’s little convertible as a normal car because, face it, it would have to be pretty crappy not to be enjoyable with the roof down.
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I couldn’t help compare it to Toyota’s 86 coupe. It’s low to the ground, meaning most of us above the age of 40 will let out a groan when getting in, only to be soothed by sporty, back-hugging leather seats.
Turn the key and it has the same sportiness in the throaty note and the stiffness of the six-speed manual gearbox.
Because your bum is just several centimetres off the ground, the car feels quick at low speed and handles like it’s on rails. The driver also gets a nice view of the wheel arches extending above each side of the bonnet.
I was driving the MX-5 Roadster GT with the 1.5 litre engine, which didn’t quite have the same pin-you-to-your-seat acceleration as the Toyota 86, though I’m thinking this would be a different story with the 2.0-litre option.
That said, this is a roadster that pays homage to the Alfa Spyder rather than E-Type Jag and it’s not exactly a slouch once you get going.
With the roof up it’s fun to drive. Lose the roof and it’s an absolute delight.
If you’ve driven a new Mazda, the dashboard layout will be pretty familiar and everything is placed perfectly with driving in mind.
It has the touchscreen that sits above the dashboard like an upright iPad that is controlled with a little dial on the centre console.
While it had a full suite of apps including sat nav, I was surprised it didn’t have a reverse camera. That isn’t too much of a problem with the roof down, but with the roof up rearward vision is rather poor. It is a very safe car, though, with high-tensile chassis and active safety features including dynamic stability control, traction control and hill-start assist.
The air-conditioning dials are big and easy to manage. The air-conditioning itself works quite well with the roof down, whether it’s hot or cold. Heated seats help with the latter so, rain aside, there’s hardly an excuse not to go topless.
The stereo system does a great job in being heard above the din. It was great driving though the forested roads near Healesville with Midnight Oil blaring and the wind flowing through my increasingly Peter Garrett-like hair.
This is a fantastic looking little car, roof down or up. I love the grille, sleek headlights and the curves that look good from every angle.
With the trend for convertibles to be hard tops with motorised functions, I’m glad Mazda has stuck with a simple, manual rag top. Putting the roof up and down is a simple, mostly one-armed action done from your seat.
Not surprisingly, this isn’t a practical car. Inside there isn’t even a glove box in the dashboard, though there is a storage area between the back of the two seats.
The low-profile doors don’t have pockets. The centre console is big because it houses the camshaft, so storage there is also at a premium beyond cup holders.
The boot is pretty small, though because the roof folds into it’s own little cavity there is no compromise of boot space when you go topless.
But you’re not buying this as a family car – you’re buying this because you want a thoroughly enjoyable driving experience, which this delivers in spades.
The MX-5 starts at $35,776 for the Roadster with the Roadster GT priced from $41,968. Not bad value for a car named 2016 World Car of the Year.