By Clutch Admin Jake.
Slam ”budget sports car” into a google image search, and the first response (at least as I write this!) will contain a snapshot of a Mazda MX5. In fact, bring up the concept of a budget sports car to any motoring enthusiast and it won’t be long until Mazda gets a mention. Unfortunately, ”hairdresser” is never far behind it – but is that fair, or more to the point; should you care?
The MX-5 was released as the Miata for our US friends and the Eunos for our Japanese neighbours and without a doubt there is a reason why it continues to be the best selling two door sports car in history. From an era renowned for Jap Muscle, the original Mx5 came fronted by a 1.6 DOHC 115bhp motor, but weighing in at a shade over 960 kg and sporting a 0-100 sprint time in excess of 8 seconds, it’s very clear that the intent was never out and out pace.
Through several facelifts, the MX-5 has stood the test of time, in a similar way that the Porsche 911 has.
Perfection through evolution rather than revolution; with each generation sculpted, chiselled, moulded to be that little modicum more compliant than the last. But with the release of the latest model slamming us into 2016 where we have sub 5 second (to 100) hatches, do you have to shell out tens of thousands in order to find a fun roadster?
The short answer would be ‘No. Thanks for reading.’ But for the less easily convinced, you first have to look at what makes the MX-5 so iconic and that is simply that it ticks the boxes that drivers love about the art of driving; and that’s without thinking about the huge aftermarket availability, super and turbocharger kits and mad v8 conversions. My first MX-5 experience came some 10 years ago now. I was being ferried to an office to undertake some pretty critical photocopying and to make up for it, my boss offered to play chauffeur. He was your typical middle aged small business owner – first trimester beer belly, bald as a badger and smoked like a locomotive. We hopped in, he dropped the roof with a flick of the left wrist and we went on our way. Five minutes in amidst a heated discussion with a supplier he pulled over and promoted me to pilot..
First thing that hit me, after the realisation that now could be the time to scare him into that pay rise I wanted, was the simplicity of it all. Whereas the supra like in our last bargain buy (which, coincidentally, I owned at the time!) made a point of cocooning you and recreating a feel of a high tech fighter bomber, the MX-5 had a simplicity and comfort like sliding on your favourite pair of slippers. The seating position, low but supportive. Sporty. The wheel at the perfect height, each lever ergonomically reachable. It all added an element of plug and play that you simply don’t get with many modern and lets face it, complicated sports cars. Slam in the clutch and the satisfyingly mechanical gear change homed in on first and we were on the way. Peppy engine with enough poke to prod us back in our seats, open roof leaving us exposed to the elements.
The 50:50 weight distribution is evident as the roads start to get a bit more transverse, and the steering is direct without feeling sharp. The gear change – like a well oiled rifle bolt – no middle earth where you’re in the limbo between the world of the living and accelerating; or the underworld of crunching gears and slowing to a halt. The beauty of the simplicity of the Mex is that reliability comes as standard. The market is awash of higher kilometre examples, but they shouldn’t turn you off too much. Simple routine servicing should see the 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 work horses into several hundred thousands of happy kms. This particular racing red, black roofed version looked cleaner than a work bathroom. You expect it to be horrific due to the age and sheer number of people using it, but the cleaner has done a great job of ensuring that it smells of pine and sparkles like a dime every morning. Everything was tight despited the 250,000 on the odometer, the few electrics operated quibble free and everything just.. was..
All the above combines to make the Mazda, the icon, every bit of worthy of the accolades it has come to be associated with. There is no better feeling than the lines between man, machine and the outside world being sufficiently blurred leaving nothing more than an overwhelming feeling of motoring satisfaction.
There is a MX-5 for all budgets, from the older aged, early 90’s mk1’s (retro pop-up headlights add a certain charm that we love!) in 1.6 guise, or early to mid 90’s models with face lifted headlights in a 1.6 or 1.8 are all achievable from $5,000 to just under the $7,500 mark. The early versions have aged with a charm that the Toyota MR2 can only dream of; without the awkward engine bay to work in or vague steering. If you can push the budget to around the $19k price point, you can treat yourself to a FSH SE from around 2004. That’s the turbo with around 180bhp, and most likely, some choice mods which will further reduce the mid 6 second 0-100kph sprint time. Whatever the budget, one thing is sure, all models come with a pure driving experience, which is unparalleled.
Until next time..