Lotus founder Colin Chapman had a philosophy for designing cars - simplify then add lightness.

It’s a recipe that Mazda re-invented with iconic MX-5 roadster, and one it has returned to with it’s latest fourth-generation ND version, taking the car back to its roots by shaving as much weight as possible.

That meant it could get away with a small engine to power it - a 1.5-litre four-cylinder in the entry-level car and a 2.0-litre four-pot for the big brother, but still with only 118kW.

That was not enough for some, so for 2018 Mazda has decided to add some more power to its lightness with the 2.0-litre engine significantly upgraded to boost grunt to 135kW and torque is up to 205Nm (from 200Nm).

He: Ali, the MX-5 has been the most affordable convertible sports car you can buy for more than 20 years now. It harks back to the classic British sports cars like the Lotus Elan and MGB with its simple but deeply enjoyable driving character. This was your first time experiencing with the latest generation, what were your first impressions?

She: I loved it, Steve. I used to own a 1998 NB MX-5 which I thought was the bees-knees and this model just reminds me of what a pleasure they are to drive. I’m not entirely won over by the exterior styling - it’s a little too sharp and edgy for my liking. In saying that, it’s far from ugly - and once you get it on the road, that’s soon forgotten. It’s light and nimble, the engine is lively and it’s just a delight to drive.

He: It’s never been a car for outright lap times, this is more for having a blast with the top down on a country road - and in that department it has no peers at its circa-$40k asking price.

But the changes to the engine do bring more power and have really given it a new level of dynamism. It’s an engine that loves to be revved hard, so you can really ring its neck and enjoy yourself. Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

She: I know what you mean. Peak power is at 7000rpm and peak torque at 4000rpm so it does need to be revved to get the best from it, and it does so with ease. You can just throw it into corners with confidence and it almost feels like a go-kart. I’m never surprised to hear people describe them as a ‘toy’. You have to get it with a manual gearbox, too - the six-speed is slick and smooth and just makes it that much more fun.

He: As much fun as it is to drive, Mazda hasn’t forgotten about the basics either. It’s got a well-presented cabin, comfortable seats and a good level of safety kit - enough to earn it a five-star ANCAP crash test rating.

Although, it must be said, there are a few compromises in order for it to be such a light and compact roadster. For starters, the cabin won’t be comfortable for tall individuals, especially with the soft-top in place. Speaking of which, the manual roof is easy to use but does involve awkwardly reaching behind you to bring it back up, which can be tricky on the move.

While I’m nitpicking, I’d love Mazda to overhaul its infotainment system. It’s slow and clunky to use and feels out-of-date despite only being five years old.

She: Yeah, for those bigger or taller than average, the MX-5 might be a bit uncomfortable as there isn’t a lot of seat adjustment or cabin room. And, there’s not a lot of storage - but you really shouldn’t expect a huge amount from such a tiny car.

I have to disagree with you on the last point though, as I like the infotainment unit - it’s easy to use and responsive and fits in really well. I’m not a fan of the tan-coloured interior - it seems nice at first, but it doesn’t blend in with the rest of the black trim pieces and would be difficult to keep clean. Something else I don’t particularly like is how Mazda has matched the exterior paint colour to the top section of the door trims - in our case, Soul Red metallic. I can appreciate the attempt at unique-styling but it’s not for me. Maybe without the tan interior it would work better.

He: The GT model we tested starts at $41,960 (plus on-road costs) for the six-speed manual version (which is the only choice for serious drivers). Personally I think it’s great bang-for-your-buck and would happily park one in my driveway. You?

She: After getting back in an MX-5, I’m super impressed at how far it’s come over the years and would definitely be happy to own one again. It’s a tail-happy, tonne-of-fun to drive and I’m a huge fan!

2018 Mazda MX-5 GT pricing and specifications
Price: From $41,960 plus on-road costs
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power: 135kW at 7000rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or auto, rear-wheel-drive
Fuel use: From 6.9L/100km

Source: Drive

October 30, 2018