Mazda MX-5 2.0 (M) | Balanced Diet

BY Azfar Hashim

Mazda stated it is heavily inspired by the first generation, albeit with a modern twist - so are they just playing with our emotions?

Photos by Azfar Hashim

I came to pick up the new MX-5 full of expectations. In fact during my drive to the showroom, I had all these imagination of driving with the roof down together with my new Ray-Ban aviators, floating through traffic with the wind blowing into my tediously waxed hair…

But rather unfortunately, within my first 10 minutes the car brought me to this: Disappointment. The engine sounds dismal, you need to crack it up just to feel alive and… it drizzled. It was painful, feeling cheated; I mean, this car got raving reviews the world over!

Wait, hold on. Somewhat amidst the disappointment, deserving of praise is both the beautiful action from the manual shifter and easy-to-modulate clutch. The steering feels perfect for urban traffic too, needing not much effort for swapping lanes or entering/exiting junctions. Then when you give the accelerator a full jab, the traction control light flickers along with chirping tyres, enough to make you snigger. Ok, so there are some good things about this MX-5 then — not all is lost. Yet.

Then it was time to go hunting for corners, and where else to do so but Lim Chu Kang. Better still, the rain has stopped and the roads have — magically — dried up, despite the sun still no where to be seen. Oh well, Heaven must’ve heard my little prayer as it all adds up for a fine time to really exploit the MX-5; and squeeze as much fun as I could out of the car.

Oh bloody hell, this car is a hoot. A real, mega hoot to drive down twisty roads. You see, grip is the order of the day here, so if you’re looking forward to the sort of antics where the rear is readily waiting for a trigger to go sideways, you can’t get it with the MX-5. Surprisingly you just feel the steering, chassis, traction control system and 205/45 R-17 Bridgestone Potenza S001 rubbers all working as one to deliver grip by the buckets from one corner to the other.

It’s only when the surface turns wet or sandy, then do you (a) get to see that flickering yellow light, and (b) the rear progressively going wide. Then again a little counter steer is enough to correct things again.

That said, the brakes feel strong and you don’t even feel a tinge of fade. Come to think of it, this could be a whole different story altogether if there were more power. Since we’re talking about power, I do get this initial impression the car’s a little underwhelming and under-powered; to be honest I even thought I’m just bratty and too spoilt by all those German turbocharged powerplants I’ve been experiencing day in, day out.

Plus when you look at the equally naturally-aspirated 86/BRZ that pushes out 200 bhp and 205 Nm, the MX-5’s 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder SkyActiv’s 160 bhp and 200 Nm worth of torque does make you wonder what Mazda was thinking; 40 bhp difference is significant by any standards.

Boy I lost count the number of times I went around the twisty bits of Lim Chu Kang with a fixated smile. This MX-5 is tremendous; this is its natural environment, no doubt about that. As mentioned earlier this roadster is undeniably grippy, even giving a rather high level of confidence to the regular driver; body movements are predictable to boot. Suddenly it all made sense why Mazda did what they did with this MX-5: Any more horsepower and the car would probably have messy handling. Plus with the large difference in kerbweight between the MX-5 and 86/BRZ (about 160-odd kilograms), it doesn’t dwindle out of corners. This best experienced without the roof.

Out on the expressway, the MX-5 displays a suspension system that has been brilliantly tuned to balance both sportiness and comfort. Hmmm… I’m no engineer but based on butt-feel, the ratio between the two must be about 60:40. It doesn’t crash over undulations and uneven road surfaces are taken with aplomb as well, so you can definitely drive up North without a complaining passenger.

Speaking of which, the MX-5 has a boot that should be able to fit bags for two adults spending their weekend up in KL. While I agree with you 130-litres doesn’t sound a lot, it is undoubtedly sufficient. Which also means shopping has to be kept to a minimal.

The interior is well put together despite the fact that it does seem a tad bare. Even the plastics used aren’t that fantastic. To be honest all I cared about was the good driving position thanks to the perfectly sized steering wheel and properly supportive seat. The three pedals however are closely placed together — I’m satisfied with it, still. Then again I’ve US size 9 feet.

At the end of it all, there's nothing particularly special to mention about the Mazda MX-5; because it is, instead, special as an entirety. Some have special engine, but fail to deliver a satisfying result. Then some cars have everything else that felt special but lacks the mechanical vigour. The MX-5? Boy oh boy, everything about it is special. A brilliant tool put together to give you an unforgettable driving experience. It doesn’t impress you initially but as you drive and learn more, it gives it all to you - know what I mean?

Then we come to the fuel economy, despite all that hard driving: Try 7.5 L/100 km (13.3 km/L).

The interior hides some useful storage compartments, along with a pair of bottle holders

The interior hides some useful storage compartments, along with a pair of bottle holders