As a self confessed petrol head, there is nothing more exciting than getting up close and personal with a car that really sets your pulse racing. Whats better still is testing that car on the wide open roads of picturesque Scotland, experiencing every twist and turn of the worlds best selling two seater sports car’s natural surroundings. A few weekends past I was lucky enough to do exactly this when I took the brand new Mazda MX-5 on a tour up through the Scottish highlands, and on the way, stopping off at the visually stunning Glen Etive, backdrop for the James Bond movie Skyfall.
For as long as I can remember even before starting The Gentleman Select, I’ve always admired the Mazda MX-5. A car which emerged in 1989, it is seen as the natural successor of many classic British sports cars of yesteryears, the MGA, Triumph Spitfire and more recently the Lotus Elan. The version I come to find myself in now is the mk4 and if I start from the outside in, there are quite a few changes to note all of which I can happily say are positive.
From the front the car looks meaner, more toned and slightly beefier, almost like its been working out during its transition period from the mk3. This look is aided by the bigger front grill and sleeker, sharp headlights which incorporate an adaptive front lighting system to point the way better on those winding roads whilst driving at night. The model I had in particular featured the classic fabric soft top roof of which a fold away hardtop, or the RF as its known, is now also an option. Colour for me as I’m sure for many, is a huge decision in picking a car. The MX-5 I drove featured Ceramic Metallic which was very clean and fresh in appearance, however another cracker to consider would be the Soul Red Crystal Metallic, its bold and punchy much like the little beast itself. At the rear the car has some noticeable changes with round headlights brought in to replace the more oblong shaped set-up we know from the mk3, each of which sit aside a deep boot I believe is a decent size for a small sports car and will comfortably accommodate two weekend bags inside it.
Moving inside the car I found the cockpit an exciting and comfortable place to be. As you might expect the driving position is very low down but happily, this only adds value to the overall driving experience. Specifically I was driving the 131 PS Sport Nav edition which had snug, figure hugging seats in black leather finished with red stitching, a trim which continues onto the steering wheel and gearstick. Personally I loved the cars heated seats which maximised comfort when I put the roof down on one of the slightly colder days out. Right in the centre sits one of the slick little accessories of the cabin, a 7″ touch-screen display featuring an easy to use sat-nav system which impressively also comes with three years of European map updates for free.
Within the system you can also link up your phone and cycle through various radio stations. Of course if you are going to listen to your favourite songs you want to do it right and as expected Mazda have this covered, inserting a premium Bose sound system featuring nine speakers, two of which are housed in each of the driver and passenger headrests. On the doors I also found the small flash of carbon fibre detailing brought more of that sporty essence into the cabin and the paneling which matched the paintwork on the outside offered a welcoming dash of secondary colour. One of the biggest plus points internally of the MX-5 is how everything is within arms length to reach, giving you a feeling of total control as you drive along. This of course nicely leads me on to the drive itself.
Admittedly I could not wait to get going in the MX-5 and as I set off along the local roads, then out into the countryside on this 200 mile round trip, I began to realise how truly thrilling this car is to drive. The 1.5- litre, 129bhp engine with Skyactiv technology was incredibly receptive and not in the least bit slow for such a small car. Indeed the new Mazda MX-5 is only 50kg heavier than its original mk1 sibling and a whole 100kg lighter than its predecessor the mk3 which means it can certainly shift regardless of whether you go for the 1.5 or 2.0- litre version. I found myself grinning like the cheshire cat many times due to the fact the car happily reaches 7,000rpm between gear changes, hitting 62mph in an impressive 8.3 seconds. It is phenomenally good fun. On the subject of the gearbox, it is slick, easy to work and not in the least bit sticky, again perfect for working the car to its full potential.
Of course with good performance, you also want a car which is receptive and has good ride quality. Happily I can say again, Mazda has ticked the boxes on this one. There is great communication from the chassis and the pin point accurate steering works in perfect harmony with the absorbent suspension to beautifully roll in and out the bends delivering a truly world class driving experience. For me it was an utter treat to drive whether I was opening the engine out a little on the road or slowing down nicely into a bend. I really didn’t want to get out.
Having driven the Mazda MX-5 for a long weekend I can completely understand why this is the What Car best convertible of the year for 2018. It is an absolute sensory joy to drive. It reminded me of driving a go-kart as a kid with its receptive traits, delivering on its intentions to put the driver at one with said vessel in that “Jinba Ittai” fashion as they say in Japan. It is a masterful continuation of the legendary MX-5 lineage and Mazda have only improved a special little car even further. When I arrived at my final destination, Glen Etive, the scene in Skyfall, I felt extremely lucky to have made the trip in such a brilliant car and to be honest, I wouldn’t have made it in anything else but the Mazda MX-5. If you are considering buying one, or just simply get the chance to test drive it, please jump at the opportunity. It will be one of your best ever decisions.