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There are few more pleasurable drives to be had than in an  MX-5

There are few more pleasurable drives to be had than in an MX-5.

Specs
Price
- six-speed manual turbo (soft top) $45,490
- with leather seats
$46,490

- air conditioning (not standard)
$1953

Speed

0-100 km/h in 7.4 seconds

Average economy

9 litres/100 km

Warranty

three years/unlimited km

Iconic MX-5 makes history

Ken Llewellyn

THERE are much faster sports cars with more seductive designs and advanced engineering, but few will reach the iconic status of Mazda’s MX-5.

Yes, the model is coming to the end of its fabulous run and a new car will be released in 2005. Launched in 1989, the MX-5 re-established the concept of the lightweight, open-top sports.

It is recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling two-seater sports car of all time.

To keep interest and sales on the boil, particularly in the USA, Mazda decided to up the power by 14 per cent by “force-feeding” the base model with a low pressure turbo-charger and stuck an SE badge on the back. (Mazda’s decision was probably made easier by the success of the Australian built SP, which pumped out considerably more power).

To ensure the extra oomph is kept under control, Mazda has thrown in a limited slip diff, 17-inch wheels with low profi le tyres, quicker steering, revised the suspension and – to ensure a throaty note – fi tted a larger diameter exhaust pipe.


Safety/Brakes
A small sports car, such as the MX- 5, is always more vulnerable in an accident, but the agility of the car keeps the odds very much in the driver’s favour.

I pushed the MX-5 reasonably hard on the undulating mountain roads, but the powerful ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear never gave a hint of fade.

Fat, low profi le Toyo tyres gave a high level of grip but at one stage the rear did step out rather smartly when its limits had been exceeded! Added safety is provided through twin air bags and ABS brakes.


Engine/Transmission
The standard 1.8 litre motor is a little beauty and the addition of a turbo adds icing on the cake. In standard form, the MX-5 will accelerate to 100km/h in around 8.4 seconds.

Expect a second slower in the SE. But you have to spin the engine beyond 4000rpm to really feel the positive effect of the turbo.

With 121kW on tap at 6000 revs, the MX-5 really boogies on tight roads and it was great fun driving up the coast road back to Canberra.

And a real plus for the car is the delightful six-speed box. The short, positive shifts of the tiny gear lever meant cog swapping was not a chore.


Economy
Expect economy to be in the region of 9 litres/100km depending, of course, on the right foot. Premium unleaded is required but the range with the 48 litre tank is reasonable.


Comfort/goodies
With the hood up, you soon notice the MX-5 is a little cramped, very fi rm in the suspension, with few creature comforts. And without cruise control you are constantly watching the speedo on the open road.

However, put the hood down, add in a little sunshine to break Canberra’s bleak winter, turn the heater on full to warm the feet, add gloves and a cap and the drive is transformed.

Within the confi nes of Australia’s restricted speed limits there are few more pleasurable drives. This is a beautifully balanced car that you can really enjoy without pressing through licence losing speeds and scaring yourself witless.

The leather seats on the test car cosseted the occupants reasonably well and provided a good standard of comfort.

Instruments are clear and easy to read and the single CD sound system was excellent. Metal pedals also add to the sporting aura. The hood was very easy to use and totally weather-proof.

It only took 30 seconds or so to put in place.


Summary
Take the MX-5 SE out for a drive when the Gods are smiling, put the hood down and your day is transformed. Few sports cars are so beautifully balanced and very few cars are so pleasurable to drive within the speed limit.

The MX-5 is indeed worthy of its iconic status.

 

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