Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 160ps Sport Nav
I’m not the tallest guy (6ft 1 to be precise), but it feels a long way down to climb into the MX-5. Once inside, it becomes very clear exactly what the car is about.
A minimalist interior is met with subtle yet intricate detailing in the stitching of leather. Smooth, stylish materials are used throughout, creating a feel of refinement. A haptic rotary dial on the centre console, which separates driver and passenger and sits at just the right height, operates the seven-inch screen mounted on the top of the dash. The navigation system is easy to use, and connectivity between car and smart phone is made simple with Bluetooth and several USB ports.
With the retractable fastback (RF) version, the roof can be down in a few seconds with a simple flick and hold of a button – perfect for a long drive down Devon’s North coast, which was my journey of choice. The system adds weight and costs an extra £2,000, but offers greater security and makes life a little easier.
As soon as the engine is switched on, the MX-5 becomes a different beast. Everything about it is designed, with absolute pinpoint precision, to be fun to drive.
Off the mark, the MX-5 feels faster than it should thanks to a lightweight and compact design with smooth and responsive gear changes. Stiff suspension and low ride height allows it whip through corners, but makes for a rickety ride when subject to potholes that dominate city roads.
The driver and passenger share a view of the bonnet’s sweeping curves, cleverly designed to shovel air over the car for aerodynamic enhancement. And while performance is the name of the game, the MX-5 won’t guzzle fuel like other sports cars. That’s because Mazda has been a champion of efficient petrol engines for a number of years – a trait it is hoping to hold on to for the foreseeable.
However, there are some bizarre issues with the MX-5 that I couldn’t quite let go. While fairly easy to use, the sat nav has a mind of its own and will turn its own volume down without any prompting. The design of the doors means that they can’t be closed without getting finger prints all over the tops of the windows, and the handbrake looks like it has been taken from my old mark 3 Clio – it’s far too big for the centre console, to the point where it invades the leg space of the driver. Two small, flimsy cupholders are made of cheap plastic, and the compact nature of the model means that they too are positioned in awkward places, this time intruding into the passenger’s leg space.
Focusing heavily on driving feel and performance may have caused Mazda to fall short in other areas with the fourth generation MX-5, but these are minor issues, a distant memory when the roof is down and the sun is shining. When I first pulled away from my house I almost felt like I was going through a mid-life crisis at 26, but as the penny starts to drop, it’s hard not to love the MX-5.