A Year with the Mazda MX-5 2016

November 16, 2016

It's been well over a year ( nearly two now ) since we took delivery of the New Mazda MX-5 2016, so how's it been

 

First Impressions

This is a truly stunning car; while I was waiting to take delivery of our MkIV, I took a trip through the history of the MX-5. Two things struck me, A) It's been the Go-To two seater sports car here in the UK for 25 years, B) until now, it wasn't very good looking. 

 

 All the Generations

 

All the previous models of this car looked a bit "safe" or "soft". They were obviously designed to be gender neutral and were never going to catch mens eyes on the forecourt.

 

Now however, the MkIV has been given hard new looks. There's still a glimmer of that smiling face grill but it's the murderous shark eyes that get your attention. Colour choices have been trimmed down too, frost white is the standard colour options of Black, steel grey and soul red. No more smurf blue or racing green. I like the way the new model looks just a bit more serious that its predecessor. This one looks as if it means business. There are design cues from Jaguar, BMW and FIAT, beautifully combined into one serious machine.

 

It's Just Big Enough

If you aren’t an actual giant, you will be snug, but you’ll fit just fine.I've seen people 6ft 4" get comfy in the drivers seat! And it’s the same story in the boot, which is exactly the right size for two overnight bags. 

 

Not that you’ll want to stay the night anywhere because, ooh, this is a lovely little car to drive. Because it’s so organic and simple, it feels how a sports car should. It always feels eager and sprightly, and that makes you feel eager and sprightly too. You just can’t be in a bad mood when you’re driving it.

 A gorgeous interior in black leather with red stitching 

 

Maybe, if you really, really concentrate when going round a long bend at about 60mph, you can feel a small dead spot in the steering. But why concentrate on that when there is 93 million miles of headroom and the sun’s out and Steve Harley’s on the radio and you’ve dropped it down to third on the sweetest little gearbox and now the engine is singing as well?

 

I tried the 1.5-litre version, which was excellent, but I’m told by others whose opinion I respect that the more expensive 2-litre is too much and overpowers the design. Trading the nimble handling the MX5 is famous for, for straight-line speed. Only one thing made me a bit cross. The sat nav was, I presume, designed by the electronics nerds who weren’t allowed to practise their dark arts on the suspension. So as a sort of payback they’ve designed a system that gets you lost.

 

Is It A Sports Car?

This is a point of some contention amongst owners and car enthusiasts in general. Mazda has always eluded to the idea that the MX5 has always been a sports car, in the tradition of 1960s Lotus and Austin Healeys. Now, I very rarely see eye-to-eye with Mr Chris Harris (of Top Gear fame) however he did make some very good points about the MX5 and it's sports car claims. Mainly that just because the roof comes off a car, it doesn't make it a sports car. Very true, after all you can get a VW beetle and Ford KA as a convertible and they are certainly not sports cars.

 

Where I disagree with Mr Harris is that a sports car is more a sense of feeling, how the car responds to your input and should reward you for pushing the car harder and that he finds this lacking in the MX5. Mr Harris is renowned for driving high-end exotic sports cars. Understandable then, when you're on heroin you're unlikely to be happy with a chocolate bar. The MX5 is an immensely rewarding car to drive, it takes some bravery to trust the setup if you've never driven a RWD sports car before but once mastered it is a true drivers sports car. Sharp steering, low driving position, the finest gearbox ever and a punchy engine. It's a sports car...fact. 

 

SatNav 
Having tinkered with the SatNav for over a year, I now feel moderately more comfortable trusting it's guidance. It has several "route options" to chose from: Fastest, Shortest, Easiest and Economical. I initially set it to fastest and ended up winding through busy and chaotic city streets, that was far from being the fastest option. Next, "Shortest" which only uses distance as a metric and yet again sent me down odd lanes, cut throughs and industrial estates, so that one was binned. Finally settling on "Easy" route option, this plans a route requiring the fewest manoeuvres, this in-conjunction with a bit of google map research is proving the ideal setting.

 

Still the display is very "cluttered", with far too much info being shown at once.  You can turn most off like points of interest and attractions but some info like "which lane to be in" would be more useful than knowing where an ATM machine is. 

 

Day to Day 

I used and continue to use our MkIV 1.5lt as a daily driver, it's a joy to get behind the wheel everyday for my daily commute. I live in a country village and the MX-5 is always on home turf with a swift country drive. However once you hit the motorway; there is a fair bit of wind noise, which is to be expected from a ragtop. However that being said, you can clearly have a conversation with your passenger, listen to the radio, take calls with ease. 

 

The arsey guy in your rear-view mirror; this was something I've never really encountered before as I've only ever driven big 4x4s or crossovers. For some reason a sports car seems to be a red rag to some drivers, who see you in front of them and they take an instant dislike to you and then try to climb inside your exhaust pipe. Also it seems to be the same two cars that want to give you a prostate exam; VW golf and Audi A6. I know some drivers of mx5s and similar cars can "potter" along a road at 28mph without a care in the world and seriously hold up traffic but the car type itself seems to make some behind you scream "get out of my way". 

 

The flip side of this however is that every MX-5 owner (regardless of model, year etc.) has waved, which is quite a nice change really.

 

Space;  We've already touched on the boot size, which is perfect for a couple of weekend bags or a full load of shopping, no problem. I moved house two months into taking delivery of this car and with the exception of some gym equipment and some maxi-sized movie posters everything went into the little MX-5. (Granted in several trips). Some reviews I read, called it undersized or small, actually compared to cars like the Smart roadster that don't even have a boot; this is practically a van! They also famously sight the lack of a glove box; you get a very decent sized "cubby" between the seats which I use for a water bottle, spare sunglasses etc. There is also space behind the seats for items you want to carry but won't need very often, I keep a first aid kit and basic car repair items in mine. This space can also accommodate the tyre repair kit and jack if you want to gain some extra boot space. 

 

 (More than adequate for a couples weekend getaway or weekly food shop) 

 

Highlights and Low-points of the Year

Firstly the highlights vastly outweigh the low-points, many of the low-points were of my own making.

 

The first low-point came four weeks into taking delivery; a Range Rover in the opposite lane on my way home, showered my windscreen in heavy gravel. After a freezing night on the drive, I found next morning the screen had a 6 inch crack in front of the drivers face. Now this is a common inconvenience and not the cars fault at all, the issue arose from trying to get it repaired. My insurers told me to use a certain repair centre who had never done this new model before. Who then proceeded to break the entire trim around the windscreen. Mazda attempted to rectify this quickly but were short of spare parts as the car was too new. So 7 days later, with the use of a ford Ka as a courtesy vehicle, I got my car back. Paying £240 for the parts and finding that spares had to come from Yokohama. 

 

The Second Low-point was totally my fault: As I attempted to make my morning commute to work on a cold March day. I hit an icy patch of road and the back end nearly span out. I grant you that, A) I am an inexperienced RWD driver B) It was an un-gritted country road C) I hadn't prepped the car for winter. Lessons learned. 

 

Highlights are far harder to write about as there are FAR too many! There was the gorgeous summers day I took the car across the Yorkshire Moors to Whitby and up the coast. The drive for a weekend getaway with my girlfriend only to have the hotel concierge team argue about who gets to park it. The number of strangers who came up to me only to ask about the car and say how fantastic it looks. In all it is a constant joy to drive. 

 

The 2016 MKIV is the best version by far, a true sports car with the safety and economics of a mid-sized hatchback. In my year driving it, I got 38mpg out of it. So it's certainly scoring points for practicality. 

 

Mazda aren't bringing out their usual ugly hardtop as per previous models, instead it will be more of a "GT" styled retractable roof. With obvious design cues from Jaguar and Aston Martin. Estimated to make up about 60% of MX5 sales, the RF is aimed at those who want more security, sound dampening at motorway speeds and perhaps a little more style. 

 

 Mazda MX-5 RF 2017

 

The only thing I didn’t like about the old model was the lack of personality and soft design. The new one, though, thanks to the styling changes that make it look more serious, is incredible. In all it has been an incredible year to enjoy this sports car, the MX-5 is no longer labelled a hairdressers car or some old mans weekend runner. It now makes a statement; I am young, I am serious and yeah I have no kids.

 

So, by staying true to the MX-5 ethos, and by avoiding the latest trends for gadgets galore, Mazda has once again come up with a full-on five-star gem.

 

 

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