Mazda MX-5 2013: Road Test

1 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Mazda MX-5 2013: Road Test
Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5

2013: Road Test

Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe Sports

Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $49,885

Options fitted (not included in above price): N/A

Crash rating: TBA

Fuel: 95 RON PULP

Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 8.1

CO2 emissions (g/km): 192

The bright red Mazda MX-5 on test is one for the ladies, according to a bloke we know. A former owner of an XW Falcon GT and a Harley Davidson, he admitted that the MX-5 is certainly a stylish machine, but the BBS alloys, the bulging wheel arches and the skateboard stance don’t compensate for the sports car’s lack of masculine appeal, in his view.

To think for a moment, however, that this tiny sports car is any the less for being small and ‘underpowered’ is to ignore the legions of fans driving MX-5s almost every weekend in bitumen speed events and motorkhanas. And the motorkhana is one form of motor sport where a Falcon GT wouldn’t even see which way the MX-5 went.

So while the MX-5 certainly seems to have an image problem (among those who are apparently motor sport virgins), the reality is it delivers affordable driving fun in the sports car segment; and that is a virtue that cuts right across the gender divide.

Since the introduction of the original NA generation of MX-5 in 1989, the Mazda has seen off plenty of competition – probably the last of which was Toyota’s MR2 Spyder and the MG TF. Both those cars departed in the same year, 2005, and the MX-5 has faced no effective competition since – until now.

Now there’s a new challenger, at least in sporting terms, to the MX-5, in the form of the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ. Both coupes are essentially the same, leaving aside some added equipment and differing trim levels. And even the most expensive of the badge-engineered twins remains cheaper than the MX-5, and particularly this car on test.

At nearly $12,000 more expensive than the auto-equipped Toyota 86 GTS, the MX-5 tested was the top of the range, with a folding roof. Mazda has dropped the slow-selling soft-top with an update of the MX-5 in October of last year. A minor facelift was the gift wrapping for a (very) slightly lighter kerb mass, sharper throttle response for manual variants and a recalibrated braking system.

In theory the revised braking system was supposed to improve the load distribution between front and rear, for an overall improvement in braking performance. It seems to work in practice, thankfully. Braking distances in the light-weight Mazda were frequently overestimated, with the MX-5 pulling up well short of corners – and the reviewer never did quite get the hang of picking the right point to begin braking.

On the rare occasion braking was left too late or the Mazda entered the corner with more than a touch of trailing throttle, the stability control system would juggle the rear braking effort to stem oversteer. By adopting a racing line through a corner and accelerating out from the apex, the MX-5’s line would widen appreciably on the exit. The nice thing about the Mazda’s handling is it lends the car a broad-based ability to deliver whatever the driver wants from it.

There’s no fighting required to overcome either handling trait with this car.

Similarly, while roadholding and traction didn’t provide the same level of grip as one might expect from an all-wheel drive turbo sedan like a Subaru STi, the MX-5 launches quite quickly if the driver incites some wheel spin.

The car’s ride is not as punishing as expected and, while it doesn’t roll much in corners, the MX-5 does seem to kneel slightly on its outboard front strut turning in. Overall, the MX-5 instilled plenty of confidence in the driver that it can handle most things thrown at it.

But returning to the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ, how does the Mazda shape up? The 2.0-litre engine in the MX-5 is an inline configuration, in contrast to the boxer engine that powers the 86 and BRZ. While the throaty Mazda engine delivers good mid-range torque and performance across a wide power band, its 118kW output is nearly 30 down on the figure for the rivals.

At engine speeds above 6000rpm the Mazda’s rate of acceleration slows and the driver might as well pick the next gear – even though there’s another 1000rpm to redline.

Mazda MX-5

The Mazda does make up for all that by being about 100kg lighter than 86 and BRZ. In straight-line performance the MX-5 will reach 100km/h in 7.8 seconds from a standing start – just 0.2 seconds slower than the boxer-engined cars.

The six-speed transmission is easy to use and provides slick-shifting prowess, but the clutch take-up is very close to the floor. That’s something we’ve encountered in other MX-5s in the past and you do get used to it, but it has the effect of limiting the range of adjustment in the driving position.

Thus the driver needs to sit closer to the wheel to ensure the clutch pedal travels all the way to the floor, but the reviewer found the steering wheel (which is adjustable for rake but not reach) was bordering on too far away unless the seat was cinched upright. That then left marginal headroom when the roof was raised. So the MX-5’s driving position won’t find favour with everyone.

And squeezing in and out of the Mazda is never likely to be as expeditious as Robin hurdling into the Batmobile, or the Duke boys leaping into the General Lee to evade Sherriff Coltrane.

Once you’re enveloped in the MX-5’s seats, however, there’s little complaint. They’re great at keeping the occupants held fast though tight corners, but might be a squeeze for larger adults.

But then comfort is something particularly subjective when it comes to a car like the MX-5. For the record, the MX-5’s engine exhaust and induction can be heard while cruising at open-road speeds, as can wind noise. At lower speeds roar from the tyres can be more intrusive, depending on the road surface.

It’s not an especially quiet car by modern standards, but it’s fairly civilised for an open-top car. Certainly it’s quiet enough for vehicle owners who expect their cars to err on the side of raw and unrefined.

Given the price disparity between this car tested and the Toyota 86 GTS (over $14,000 less than the Mazda), the MX-5 shows its relative age and the limitations of its design. The beauty of its folding hard top is that the car is properly sealed against weather and – to a lesser extent – external noise, but the Toyota and Subaru coupes offer more airbags for crash protection.

And the Mazda lacks the ability to play music from an iPod through its audio system other than by means of an auxiliary input – and that won’t recharge the external device. In contrast the 86 GTS provides a USB connection as well as Bluetooth audio streaming, although the Mazda has a six-disc CD changer that’s MP3-compatible. The Toyota makes do with a single-disc player.

This reviewer can recall when CD stackers were state of the art, not retro.

When the first MX-5 was launched here it looked so much like a modern-day incarnation of the Lotus Elan from the early 1960s. The Mazda’s retro looks were a large part of its appeal at the time.

In its latest (NC generation) guise, the MX-5 strives not so much to capture the swinging 60s zeitgeist as it strives to provide a natural driving experience. And there are still buyers out there who like that about the MX-5; but you can bet their bottom dollar they won’t be satisfied with paying the manufacturer’s list price.

Read the latest Carsales Network news and reviews on your mobile, iPhone or PDA at the carsales mobile site

Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5

Tagged as:

Other articles of the category "Mazda":

Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

Born in the USSR


About this site

For all questions about advertising, please contact listed on the site.

Car Catalog with specifications, pictures, ratings, reviews and discusssions about cars