The MX-5 is a true survivor having seen off the likes of Midgets, Sprites and Spitfires; this well proportioned roadster was originally inspired by the Lotus Elan. I can recall the joy when I saw the little Elan racing at Kirkistown in the hands of the likes of Mike Nugent and of course the MX-5 has raced at circuits around the world.
Recently, I spent a week behind the wheel of this latest version of the Japanese roadster and I set a mission to return to Ballyjamesduff; many years have passed since I reported and photographed the famous street races in the County Cavan town. Alas, the sound of racing engines is no more, and today one of the attractions town is the museum which features the trenches of The Great War, a terrific display which will have memories for so many. My base was the Cavan Crystal Hotel on the edge of Cavan town, great food and a friendly staff. You might say an MX-5 is a strange choice for such an adventure; not so. I was able to get a small suit case, soft bag, camera bag and jackets in the deep boot and for small items; somehow I found space in the cabin.
The MX-5 arrived on the motoring scene in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show and what a reception it received. The timing was perfect- it was just what many motorists craved for, an affordable roadster. It came as no surprise the US market was huge, especially on the West Coast and the first generation model achieved over a quarter million sales and the MX-5 made it into the Guinness Book of Records which declared it as the best selling car of its type in history. Through the years, I have driven several versions of this Mazda and despite revisions, updates etc the magic remains a little gem with handling and performance that has always put a giant smile on my face and take it from me, few cars can do that All ages have and continue to enjoy MX-5 style motoring; few things re motoring can equal that wind in the hair feel. This is one set of wheels that truly puts joy back into driving. Now to report on the latest generation model. Yes it has gained the technology that we now expect from the modern car; but to be truthful the in car entertainment was rarely turned on as I enjoyed the sound of the two litre engine, especially with the hood down. The six speed manual gearbox, so slick in operation I welcomed, as for months, with one exception, the cars I have had on test have featured automatic transmissions of one form or another. I could easily become a lazy driver, but not so this time round! I will admit I enjoyed racing up and down the gears, for me the word fun was back in driving. In its latest guise the current MX-5 is shorter, lower and wider than the last generation car. In fact and it remains the lightest MX-5 since the original version launched more than thirty years ago.
My test vehicle was powered by the Sky-Activ G two litre engine with 184bhp; a smaller 1.5 litre with 132bhp is also available. The two litre version can reach 100kph (62mph) from rest in 6.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 219kph (136mph); so best to take it to a track day to explore top end performance. Stopping power is courtesy of a Brembo braking system. Equipment levels are very acceptable and if you do want music on the move, Apple CarPlay is part of the package. The real joy of this small roadster is when you fire up the engine and take to the open road. With almost 50:50 front/rear weight balance, handling is very controllable; little wonder that it has been developed for competition. Black BBS wheels add that sporting touch to this roadster. When the sun decides to appear, the soft top can be lowered in a matter of seconds and it stores behind the seats and does not rob boot space. Of course there is also a hard top version and for added choice a variety of trim levels; on this occasion I had the Homura. Hopefully at some future date the opportunity may arise to try the hard top version.
Summing up, the MX-5 amidst a sea of SUVs, hatchbacks etc, it retains what I would best describe as the true spirit of motoring.