It was a dramatic change, for me, going from a Chrysler 300 SRT to Mazda’s MX-5. When the Japanese roadster replaced our American mobster six months ago, it was like going down three jean sizes.
Our butts already filled the Chrysler’s huge pews and our driving style had grown lazy with a big fat V8 under foot, which could crawl up a hill without even an ankle flex.
Then Mazda’s 2.0-litre GT, bearing the plates AJK325, rolled into our garage as my new steed. And we suddenly went from 462 litres of boot storage to a miniscule 130. We didn’t even have anywhere to store our phone. Where was our heated steering wheel, radar cruise, or thumping stereo? Like I said when I introduced the roadster, it was like swapping a burger with the lot for sashimi. And it left me a little hungry.
Thankfully, though, summer was coming into full swing. The perfect season for something fresh, light, and exotic. And I quickly discovered you could bring warm temperatures inside with a slam of the roof.
Yes, that manually operated roof was somewhat of a downgrade from the previous generation MX-5’s electrically operated one. But that mattered little when compared to the new car that came with it. Mazda was focused on aligning this generation as close to the original as possible by making it lightweight and fun.
After what I completed with the long-termer in the name of, ahem, research – sliding it across a skidpan, blasting up and down Mount Macedon with its hard-top sibling and chasing its segment rivals across rural Victoria – it’s obvious the company nailed its brief.
Mind you, it’s no oversteer hero and wouldn’t trouble a Megane RS on the road, but some of us don’t mind enjoying a mountain pass at our own pace. It’s a joy feeding it into corners with that fluid, electric steering rack, feeling its long-travel dampers roll onto its outside tyres, then sinking the throttle as its LSD-equipped rear end easily handles its modest outputs.
Drivers into slip, rather than grip, will find their fix much easier on the 1.5-litre’s softer suspension and smaller tyres, but I found the 2.0-litre’s stiffer package much more trusting. And that didn’t only come down to its suspension.
That 2.0-litre’s beefier torque made for rapid escapes from traffic lights and combined with the car’s retro-weight figure it’s the fastest MX-5 we’ve ever tested. Seriously, the previous generation hardtop, with 118kW and 188Nm, was good for 100km/h in 8.0sec and the quarter mile in 15.7sec. Meanwhile, our long termer thumps it with figures like 6.56sec and 14.68sec respectively.
My relationship with the MX-5 also endured a couple of knocks, literally. An unknown assailant backed into it once, and at another point its Kuroi lip came loose. Despite this, it left our garage looking gorgeous as ever.
Sure, the whole hairdresser joke will follow the MX-5 to its grave, but the aftermarket’s never had an easier job fixing that. With that aggressive face, swooping silhouette, and raised rear haunches, the MX-5 has grown into an athletic-looking mite.
And the reason Mazda’s sold a million of them is because they appeal to your heart and head. Yes it’s a proper sportscar, hence it comes with appropriate downsides – a lack of storage, difficult ingress and compromised comfort (the MX-5 soft-top is rather noisy). But for less than $40K you can buy another car that’s none of those things. Or just sell your kids. Whatever it takes to get one in your garage. I know I would.
Fuel this month: 8.25L/100km
Distance this month: 403km
LIKED: Sunny days; twisty roads
DISLIKED: Transporting more than a parcel
Favourite moment: Shooting down the Great Ocean Road