My ideal garage includes 3 cars. My fantasy garage has rather a few more but that’s another story….
Car number 1 is a Jaguar. Given my long term love of the marque that’s a given. Lithe, powerful, elegant. Nuff said.Car number 2 is an SUV. I’ve never been a massive fan but you can hardly fault their usefulness. Given that we live in a place with lots of snow in winter a 4 wheel drive SUV is inching its way up my useful list.
Apart from all-weather versatility, it’s a useful kind of vehicle to load up to the gunwales when you’re going on holiday. Up ’til now my ideal SUV has been Land Rover’s Discovery. However, the imminent release of Jaguar’s first SUV, the F-Pace, raises the tantalising possibility of cars 1 and 2 being combined into a single vehicle. With cars 1 and 2 in place, car number 3 can be for pure fun, a 2 seater roadster. Ideally, it should be light, rear wheel drive, economical to run, affordable to buy, and fun to drive. With that list of requirements only one car fits the bill, Mazda’s MX-5.The MX-5 is an icon. Very simple mechanicals, rear wheel drive, responsive handling, affordable. And it’s a Mazda so it will be reliable. The MX-5 single handedly made the case for 2 seat roadsters over 25 years ago when they were an endangered species.
Without it cars like the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK, Audi TT, MG TF, Honda S2000,and Toyota MR2 may never have been built. Intriguingly, the latter three have been withdrawn from production leaving Mazda to fight the German giants.The original was launched over 25 years ago in 1989 and it was unlike virtually anything else on the road at the time. It came with the ultimate ’80s cool feature: pop up headlights. I’ve never driven one. The closest I’ve got was its cousin, launched in the same era, also with pop up headlights, the 323F. Given that this car was front wheel drive and handled like a dream I totally believe those who still swear by the original’s purity of handling. Generation 2 arrived 9 years and over 400k sales later, in 1998. The pop up headlights were gone as a consequence of pedestrian protection legislation, but pretty much the car was as before with one or two concessions to comfort. I’ve never driven one of these either, but have been driven in one. Quickly. On the Isle of Man. Good fun. Generation 3 was launched in 2005. In my view, it is the best looking of all of the MX5s, including its successor. It had put on a bit of weight as Mazda tried to make the car a little more refined than its predecessors.
I have driven a Mk3 model a couple of times and I confess that I love it. I love the simplicity of a convertible roof that can be closed by hand pretty much in the same way you close a car door; you pull it and slam it shut. Simples! Mostly, I love the light and responsive rear wheel drive chassis. However, for tall drivers like me it felt a bit claustrophobic with the roof raised.Mazda launched its 4th generation MX-5 last year. They’ve gone back to basics. Sadly the pop up headlights don’t make a return but they’ve gone for very slim lights. They’ve stripped out a lot of weight so that it is only 50 kg heavier than the original and lighter than ever generation since then. Given the increase in safety requirements in the last 25 years that is a major achievement.
Having driven both the 1.5 and 2.0 versions of the new car, I can say that it handles like a dream; it genuinely appears to pivot around the driver. The 2.0 is better fun but the 1.5 better balanced. I love either. What I don’t love are the looks. Those headlights and the frown face shut line of the bonnet really don’t work for me. On the up side I fit better.
Despite being smaller than the Mk3 there is more room and less claustrophobia on the inside. It is a truly fantastic little car. So I hope the looks grow on me…