7 February 2011

Mazda MX-5 2005 car review

Mazda certainly got the looks right with the latest MX-5 with a snazzy combination of design features carried over from the original, and some borrowed from Mazda's other sporty models.

Mazda certainly got the looks right with the latest MX-5 with a snazzy combination of design features carried over from the original, and some borrowed from Mazda's other sporty models.

Vibrant metallics join the colour line up, and attractive 17-inch alloys on low-profile rubber add a new muscular stance.

The 2005 MX-5 is larger and feels less cramped inside, though despite its increase in size, and upgraded specifications version 3.0 is remarkably only four kilograms heavier than the first iteration.

With a front-mounted and responsive, naturally aspirated engine, rear wheel drive and near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. It's a sports car in every sense.

This means the vehicle has improved stability and nimbleness when cornering. The engine and other weighty items such as the vehicle's battery have been moved inward towards the centre of the engine bay. To add further rigidity to the MX-5, a drive train brace is attached from the gearbox to the differential, greatly reducing flex in the vehicle's floor pan.

The MX-5's engine has grown to 2.0 litres, producing 118kW @ 6700 rpm, the sharp power unit darts the little roadster from 0-100km/h in just under 8 seconds.

Not exactly hair raising, but combine it with the expert handling and you won't feel you're missing anything in power stakes.

Having driven both, manual and automatic variants, we would still have to favour the six-speed manual as a more 'true to form' option for the MX-5's sports car chassis.

However the automatic is very good, among the best automatics suited to sporting driving we have experienced in fact.

The transmission holds the gear well until redline, and will downshift with similar disregard for the rev limiter; it understands that driver knows best. The ride is firm, and could afford to be slightly more forgiving over bumps. Though, you don't give this much attention mid-corner, where the distinct lack of body roll and high levels of feedback to the driver makes for one of the most exhilarating and predictable handling you'll find. And certainly the best at this end of the market.

Mazda have bucked current trends to go for electrically assisted steering, which improves fuel efficiency but can often feel vague on a curvaceous back road. Instead the MX-5 makes use of solely hydraulic power steering, it is communicative with a firm feel and good lock, although some of our AA testers felt the steering wheel was positioned too close to the seat making it difficult to achieve an ideal driving position.

The low slung seating of the roadster means the less mobile of occupants could have difficulty gaining access to the cabin, and a height adjustable seat to increase hip height would have been a benefit.

The roof is manually raised and lowered, but can be done effortlessly from the driver's seat and indeed can be converted far faster than any electric roof.

A small plastic wind deflector between the seats can be flipped up so your hair looks the same at your destination as it did when you left the house.

While practicality doesn't generally play an integral part in the discussion to buy a roadster, Mazda have maximized available space and the cockpit features several handy cubbies including a 7.3 litre glove box, centre-console (large enough to accommodate 10 CDs) and two storage compartments in the rear wall behind the seats.

Luggage space is 150 litres but comes at the cost of a spare tyre, should a puncture occur the supplied emergency repair kit is your only line of defence.

Four airbags are standard, and an ISOFIX child restraint is also fitted to the passenger's seat, however Electronic Stability Program (ESP) has not been optioned for the Kiwi market. MX-5's are available in two levels of specification, standard, and Limited.

The base model starts at $44,950 in manual guise, a Limited adds leather interior, a cloth (rather than Vinyl) roof and a Bose sound system for the additional $2000 and demonstrates the best value for money. Automatics are slightly less fun to drive but will be welcomed by city dwellers and add a further $2000.

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