I’ve had an association with Lodge Garage, an official Mazda dealership near Aylesbury, for a number of years now and they recently gave me a 24 hour loan of the latest release of the Mazda MX-5.
This particular car is the top-of-the-range 2-litre Sport Nav version in optional Soul Red Metallic – a colour that I think suits the car really well. Powered by a unique-to-the-model straight 4, with a high compression ratio of 13:1, it puts out 200NM of torque – a full 33% up on the 1.5 litre variants – which explains why you’re able to start off in second, or do 30mph in 6th gear. You can reach its peak power of 160PS just before its red line at 6000rpm but the car pulls really well right across the rev range. Words like “pokey”, “eager” and “lively” spring readily to mind when describing its performance. The 6-speed gearbox is an absolute dream, the short shifter ideally placed for fast changes. 62mph appears in 7.3 second in ideal conditions and a clear Autobahn could see 133mph. Yet this car can easily return in excess of 50mpg on a motorway cruise.
The car’s superb handling is at least partly explained by the presence of Bilstein shocks; the car also boasts a limited slip diff, which you’ll feel the benefit of if you’re one for booting the throttle on corner exits. The smart 205 17″ alloy wheels come with Bridgestone Potenza S001 tyres, which coped admirably with the damp and icy conditions of Buckinghamshire’s back roads in January, as well as three hours of motorway cruising.
The cabin space is luxurious, with full leather 3-stage-heated seats, leather door cards and lower dash, plus a leather steering wheel. The manual fabric roof incorporates a glass rear window with a very efficient heating element. For potential owners who might be put off a proper “rag top”, a metal targa-style hard top variant launches shortly – Lodge have already taken 17 orders for a car no one has even seen yet.
Sadly you can’t get away from what I feel is a hateful “infotainment” system that’s deployed across the current Mazda range – its popup-looking-but-not touch screen dominating the centre of the dash, together with a joystick control aft of the gear change. I just can’t get used to using it but at least this one has sat nav built in, together with both Blue Tooth and USB connectivity for mobile devices. Selected gear is show in the rev counter, where the car can subtly suggest a higher gear to improve your economy. Cruise control or speed limiter is standard – handy with more and more of our motorways becoming “managed” – as is defeat-able “lane departure warning”, plus tyre pressure monitoring. A optional safety pack would also bring you blind spot monitoring (although visibility isn’t particular poor here anyway) and automatic high beam control – which I’m not a fan of.
The MX-5 has been a total contrast the brand new but gutless 2 that I borrowed this time last year, which I wouldn’t even consider buying to replace my own 2, bought in January 2009. This car however I’d have in a heartbeat – if I didn’t already own a Porsche Boxster.
A massive thanks therefore to Lodge Garage, Aylesbury for the loan of this fabulous car.