Tested: Mazda's MX-5 still sets hearts racing
I doubt whether anyone hasn’t heard of the Mazda MX-5 or hasn’t wondered whether it could perhaps fit in as a second car just because it’s so much fun and good looking to boot.
It was recently given a mild update with the MX-5 RF (retractable fastback) featuring a hardtop that opens and closes with a push of a button in 13 seconds and can do so while moving at up to 10km/h. I’m always a little loath to try retractable roofs while on the move, a quick unexpected breeze could be its undoing, so I stuck to doing it with the car was at a standstill.
The MX-5 is true to Mazda’s KODO design which the Japanese car maker describes as “Soul of Motion” - it should evoke feelings (I know, it’s a car right?) of power and beauty when standing still or in motion. I must have missed the memo when it came to evoking a feeling but it is a looker and had many second glances both in parking lots and on the road.
In fact, it also attracted the attention of a patrolling metro police officer when we left a restaurant one evening.
I think the officer was expecting a much younger couple in the roadster.
After the usual toing and froing he insisted he bring out a breathalyser and that the cash in the wallet was for our use only - he waved us along again saying what a nice car it was.
Powered by Mazda’s 2.0-litre normally aspirated SkyActiv petrol engine pushing out 118kW and 200Nm the MX-5 was never intended to be a racer but rather a fun-to-drive, well-balanced car to whizz around twists and turns that doesn’t mind touching the red line. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission fitted with a limited slip differential.
Sitting very low, the tar does seem to pass a lot faster then the speedometer shows and that’s very much part of the driving experience.
Mazda has employed some nifty sound-numbing technologies when the roof is up and it was surprisingly quiet inside even at speed on the highway. With the roof down on a balmy evening the usual wind noise prevails but it’s not overly intrusive and it’s on evenings like those an open-top car makes sense.
Otherwise your scalp just gets burnt by the sun and diesel fumes and smoke make for an unpleasant drive.
Mazda’s engineers have tweaked the double-wishbone and multilink suspension in the front and rear and it absolutely thoroughly enjoyed going hard in to corners and then powering out again.
Inside it is neat and simple with analogue dials, the rev counter in the middle with speedometer and vehicle information on either side. I’ve said it before, digital cockpits are here to stay but there’s something reassuring about “real” dials and instruments.
I’m considered one of the taller people in the world and despite a bit of an effort to enter and exit the car, the driving position is remarkably comfortable with its leather-wrapped steering wheel and perfect for spending time looking for sharp bends on the road. Look, it’s not a Land Cruiser or a Range Rover but that would be defeating the purpose of the roadster.
The Mazda MX-5 remains one of the world’s most iconic roadsters and practicality apart, it’s easy to see why so many have been sold. It’s a smile a mile at R538200 as you head out with the top down and fling it around with gay abandon.
It comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty, three-year service plan, three-year road assistance and a five-year corrosion warranty.