Essence of driving fun
I was slightly disappointed not to have got the manual version first, but according to inside information Singapore buyers are taking up the automatic more. Not a huge surprise, but it might be a bit of a shame considering what this car is supposed to represent.
Of course the 6 speed automatic gearbox version promises to be just as fun, and to deliver more convenience and effortless driving so that you can fully enjoy the topless experience rather than worry about the gear changes.
The car is stable, with very predictable handling and a slightly firm ride expected from a sports car. It’s easy to drive; the steering is well weighted and gives you enough feel to know what the car is doing. On a wet day the rear will come loose if you drive too vigorously, testament to the sheer amount of torque this 2.0l naturally aspirated engine can deliver.
The SKYACTIV-G engine manages to squeeze out quite a fair bit of performance without turbochargers courtesy of its high compression ratio – 13:1. The result is 158hp and 200Nm of torque, which is plenty for a car that only weighs about 1,100kg. Mounted within a superbly balanced chassis behind the front axle of the car, the engine sends power to the rear wheels only making for a car that’s precise, responsive and highly agile. The gearbox is smooth, changes gear quickly enough and also features auto rev-match on downshifts. Gears can be selected via steering wheel mounted paddles, but as all purists would say, three pedals are better than two.
And with a name like SKYACTIV you can bet your last dollar that Mazda has incorporated the latest earth-saving technologies like start/stop and brake energy regeneration. Fuel economy isn’t bad either; I averaged about 12.7 km/l even with lots of pedal to the metal action.
The chassis could be stiffer, but the MX-5 was never meant to be driven around a racetrack like a Porsche 911 GTS; it delivers fun in an everyday use, easy to zip around kind of way. The sound of the inline 4 is spirited rather than ferocious, and the lack of a roof just makes cruising around with the wind in your hair and the Bose speakers in the headrests playing your favourite tunes all the more pleasurable.
Is the manual more fun? I reckon it could be, but that doesn’t stop the auto from being anything short of awesome in its own right.
Credits: Story and Photos by Alvan Sio