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Reader test: Mazda MX5

2008-10-21 11:20

Bob Hopkin, Wilderness

 As an aging petrolhead approaching senile decay, about a year ago I felt I needed a fix for the onset of Postmalemenopausal Impotence Syndrome (or PIS for short).

Living in the Garden Route with our lovely swoopy roads and mountain passes it had to be a drop top sports car. Yes, the real McCoy not a leaden Peugeot 206CC or useless Opel Tigra.

Discounting a BMW Z4 (designed by a committee of blind men), not willing to cough up for a Honda S 2000 (hundred grand more than it’s worth), tempted by a Toyota MR 2, but wary of its minimal boot space and condition since its discontinuation, the choice was shrinking rapidly.

The over-priced and slow Mercedes-Benz SLK did not appeal, I wouldn’t be seen dead in a Chrysler Crossfire or Nissan 350Z and didn’t want to pay Porsche prices. All roads led to the most popular two seater in the world – the Mazda MX 5.

In the mold of classic sports cars

I found a low mileage red (had to be!) Roadster Coupe in Gauteng and we had a marriage made in heaven. The evolutionary rather than revolutionary development to the Mk 3 seems to have distilled the ingredients into what the British sports car of the 1960s should have become.

Although bowing to the needs of legislation over the years has made the MX a little porkier than it used to be, the engineers at the Flying Seagull have managed to keep it down to just over a tonne.

Aluminium bonnet, boot lid, brakes and suspension bits keep the weight in check and careful structural design have made the latest one as stiff as a stick.

Downsides? Well just a few. The lack of a spare wheel causes a few butterflies on a long trip into the Karoo and the big number plate plinth spoils the front end a bit, but that’s about it really.

Surprises? Yes and they’re all good. For a sports car the ride is phenomenal – the Colin Chapman-formula of low unsprung mass and softish springing just works so well, yet maintains handling and ultimate grip way beyond my needs.

Only 37kg heavier

The gearchange is like a switch, brakes never a concern and interior and boot space really generous for its size. The folding hardtop is a geometrical revelation and hats off to the guys in Hiroshima who combined composites with aluminium to keep the additional mass to only 37kg over the soft top.

But I’ve kept the best ‘til last. This is a car with two personalities – a real Gemini.

Keep it below 3 000 r/min and it will double as an everyday, around town shopping car that will never turn around and bite the missus. Great visibility also means parking is a breeze.

When the time, mood and roads are right you can easily flip the coin to the other character and get the adrenaline rush. From 4 000 r/min, she just gathers up her skirts and goes like Angelina Jolie on steroids. Always great stuff!


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