The Mazda MX-5 was named the World Car of the Year a couple of months ago. And since we’re on the awards jury, we thought we ought to validate our vote. So, here’s just what makes this two-seat convertible so incredibly special.
Every new model, with each passing generation, tends to get larger, heavier, better equipped, as well as more powerful and grippier than before. 200 horsepower is par for the course, 400 appears to be a prerequisite for a sports car nowadays, and 600 (which was once the preserve of only the most elite super sports cars) is commonplace even amongst many uber-sedans. Colin Chapman’s mantra of “simplify, then add lightness,” appears to be long forgotten. To overwhelm the massive tyres in most modern cars you need add substantial speed and power – there’s no such thing as a gentle slide around your favourite corner en route to work these days. Or is there?
The car that you see here has been named the ‘World Car of the Year’ by 73 auto journalists from 23 countries, including yours truly, for a very simple reason – it’s fun to drive! The latest MX-5 – the fourth generation – was launched last year, and it’s about 100-kilos lighter than its predecessor. And that’s very rare these days. On the styling front, Mazda has tried to make the MX-5 more aggressive than ever before – so, now it has an edgy face with squinting eyes. At the back, the taillights appear to be reminiscent of the most beautiful convertible of all time – the Jaguar E-Type. It’s certainly not a beautiful car in the classical sense, but in the white and black of our test car in GT trim it was certainly very striking indeed. And the diminutive proportions seem just right.
Our test car had a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol motor mated to a six-speed manual, sending 155 horses to the rear wheels. And in case you’re scoffing at those specs, I’m here to tell you that it’s all the power that you’ll ever need. 100km/h comes up in 6 seconds, and when you have the top down 100 feels plenty fast. And that’s what this car is all about – its unadulterated, pure focus is how it makes you feel. As for me, well, it just made me very happy.
There’s not much more that you can ask for in life other than a small, two-seat convertible sports car – manual transmission, rear-wheel drive – on some beautiful California mountain roads that overlook a shimmering Pacific ocean. As the roads wind tighter, the Mazda gets deeper into its comfort zone. The electronic power steering feels perfectly weighted, the six-speed gear level requires a bit of heft but slots in perfectly, and the chassis – my god, the chassis! You merely have to look at the imagined apex of a corner, and you’re there. With your right foot buried deep in the footwell you exit the corner holding the smallest, most delicate slide. The best part is that you can do all this without having to do twice the speed limit – a vice that’s likely to land you either in jail or wrapped around a light pole.
On the inside, the MX-5 is far more spacious and comfortable than you’d imagine it to be. It has Bluetooth, navigation, and an infotainment system that’s controlled via a BMW iDrive-esque dial on the central tunnel. All-in-all it, has everything you need without taking away from the primary objective – driving!
I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on it when I drove the first generation Miata many years ago. Sure, it was a proper sports car brimming with feel but it just didn’t have enough power for my tastes. Well, that’s no longer the case. This one has just as much feel, engagement, and involvement, while providing a nice shove in the back when you want it – which is pretty much all the time when you’re driving a car such as this. The MX-5, then, is the true antidote to the ‘Autonomous’ car of the future. Quite simply, it’s brilliant – and I think it would be the perfect sports car for India, since we can very rarely use the several hundred horses produced by the majority of sports cars and supercars offered for sale in our market.
Interestingly, Fiat has recently introduced a new sports car based on the MX-5 called the 124-Spider – which hopes to build on its own sports car legacy from the 1960s. Perhaps we ought to start lobbying the Italian carmaker to bring that model into India.
In the meantime, Mazda – take a bow. That World Car of the Year award is well deserved!
Winding California mountain road, wind in your hair, and a convertible sports car – life doesn’t get much better…
THE BEGINNINGS: Here’s the car that started it all. The first generation Mazda MX-5 – better known as the Miata – was launched in 1989, and was clearly inspired by the Lotus Elan of the 1960s. The once thriving British sports car market – with the likes of MGs, Triumphs, Austin-Healeys, etc. – was virtually near its end when Mazda launched what looked to be every bit a modern “British” sports car. Only, here was a car that wasn’t plagued by the accompanying characteristics of these famous bare-bones convertibles – faulty electronics and rust! In blending pure driving pleasure with Japanese reliability, Mazda touched on a formula for success the likes of which had never been seen in the sports car world. This car singlehandedly resurrected the open-top sports car, which seemed destined to go the way of the Dodos. The rest, as they say, is history – the Miata has been in production ever since and crossed the one million sales mark earlier this year.
- Mazda MX-5
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Rear Wheel Drive
Power: 155bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 200Nm @ 4,600rpm
Acceleration: 0-100km/h – 6.0 seconds
X-FACTOR: The MX-5 is the epitome of less is more! This car proves that you don’t need 600 horses to have a blast behind the wheel of a sports car.
Also read: Mazda MX-5 is 2016 World Car of the Year