by Liz Turner
I’ve recently reconnected with a schoolfriend on Facebook. We were getting on fine until she said how much she loved her Mazda MX-5 – her second. Then I remembered I never did like her.
When people find out that I write about cars for a living, they often ask what’s my favourite car. It’s a tough one because I love so many cars, but the one that always makes it to my tongue is the MX-5. And I can’t have one because I need four seats.
The little Mazda is a car you can have a relationship with. The team who created it in 1990 aimed to create a relationship like a horse and rider, and that feeling has survived to this third generation. It responds to your slightest touch, and darts around corners with a zest more expensive cars can’t match.
And that’s why I like it so much. It’s affordable to buy, insure and run. Its 1.8 engine or gives it just enough power to be nippy while keeping fuel bills and insurance costs low. Even the sportier 2.0-litre version is affordable to run, and both hold their value for when you want to sell the car.
The MX-5 is as reliable as that favourite pony and as eager to go out and have fun whenever you do, even if it’s only to the shops and back. More powerful cars need space and speed to give their best, but the little cuddly little roadster handles with such precision, it feels as if you’re going fast when you’re only doing 30mph. I’ve actually driven a Ferrari that did this the other way around, and it’s just a recipe for frustration and points on your licence.
Of course I love the MX-5’s cheeky face and curvy backside. The interior is simple and dark; special editions tend to have a bit more bling. I just love snuggling into the bucket seat and taking hold of the chunky wheel with its firm, tactile action.
The hood just has to go down if there’s the slightest opportunity, and it’s so quick and easy. These days, though, you can get an electric hardtop that vanishes into the boot.
My latest flirtation was with an American special edition, the 2.0-litre Club, when we had passionate love affair with for just a week in Florida. The Club announces its sporting character with a megaphone. Its perfectly named True Red paint made other red cars look more True Blood. Its black alloy wheels were as spikey as a punk’s Mohican, and that blacked out grille resembled a fiendish, mocking grin. When I picked it up in Miami, befuddled by the flight, I was sure I caught a glimpse of devil horns and a tail.
This edition doesn’t have any more power than a standard 2.0-litre, but it does have sports-tuned suspension, and those big 17-inch alloy wheels with grippy high-performance tyres. Just one thing worried my husband and I. Would we get our bags in the boot? We’d packed light using squashy sports bags, and thought one of us (him) might have to hold a bag on their lap. In fact, the luggage fitted with minimal squish, and even the duty-free slipped in there.
Sadly the roads were far from challenging: the only curves near Palm Beach had a speed limit of 25mph. No matter, it was glorious doodling along past smart homes on one side, the turquoise Atlantic on the other. Even at lower speeds, the quick steering, slick gearchange and kart-like handling kept me entertained. If I was Goldilocks, this was Little Bear’s car. Everything felt just right.
Power 125bhp at 6500rpm
0-60mph 9.9 seconds
Max speed 121mph
Average economy 39.8mpg
2.0i Sport Tech
Power 158 at 7000rpm
0-60mph 7.6 seconds
Max speed 132mph
Average economy 36.2mpg
Mazda MX-5 Club (USA)
Combined economy 24mpg