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Mazda MX-5 1.8 v.s. Mazda MX-5 1.8


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Popped into Yeovil today and my dad had asked me to pop into the BMW garage to pick him up a new sidelight bulb.

As I turned off the roundabout before it a new MX-5 came up behind me and headed up to the Mazda garage which is nearby.

Got the bulb and decided to head on up to take a look.

Looking round it I really couldn't decide what I thought, the flared wheel arches are a nice took and make the Mk2 I drive look a little flat by comparision but I'm still not keen on the Mk3 lights, the front ones don't fit in well with the lines of the car, and the rear ones.... well they're chav lights, as seen on a Saxo near you!

The bonnet has lost the smooth flowing lines of the Mk2 as well and looks a little strange but I do like the new dual exhaust exits.

The new hood design is nice too, only one clip in the centre to undo and looks a lot neater when stored, but the wind deflector looks a little bit tacky to me, particularly when down.

Spoke to the sales bloke and a few other people who had turned up in MX-5's to take a look and got told I could get a test drive if I was interested so after a bit more talking I ended up with the keys in my hand.

The demonstrator was a basic 1.8 with options pack in (non-metalic) edge red, so it had the cloth roof instead of vinyl, 16" alloy wheels, CD player, remote locking and a few other bits and pieces such as leather on the steering wheel and handbrake but no leather seats or air-con.

Basically its as basic a Mk3 as you are likely to buy (without the option pack you don't even get alloys ooo.gif)

Sitting in it was a case of mixed impressions too. The interior seemed nicer in some ways than the Mk2 but what is with all the cupholders???? There are 2 in the centre console and 1 in each door! The interior plastics look better but didn't feel as tactile to the touch and the layout has some strange issues, the boot release is hidden down by your right knee next to the bonnet catch. The movement of the indicator stalks feels quite satisfying, but then again so did the latest generation Fiesta’s…..

The steering wheel is smaller than my Mk2 as well and being leather felt pretty good to the touch. You get controls for the radio on the left hand spoke as well but I’ve never really had any problems just pressing the buttons on the radio so personally this is neither a positive nor a negative to me.

On the move and speaking to the salesman the engine despite being a 1.8 the same as my Mk2 is an all new unit, 20bhp down on mine but apparently “it makes up with it on torque” so “You don’t have to rev it as much”, well I put it into 5th gear at 30mph and floored it and pick up felt no better than in the Mk2, if anything it seemed a little less eager and isn't it missing the point of a sports car a bit anyway? Worse still you can really feel the missing power at the top end, it sounds silky smooth compared to the slightly rough edge of the older engine but it never gives that extra push, it doesn’t feel worth the effort and I can’t imagine running it round to the redline very often, it definitely felt happier grabbing the next gear at around 6000rpm but acceleration didn’t feel anywhere near as quick as the Mk2.

The bigger wheels (16” v.s. 14”) didn’t seem to hinder the ride, infact if anything it felt a little less affected by potholes than the Mk2, and bodyroll didn’t feel noticeably better or worse, but the chassis didn’t seem quite as playful as mine.

I know with the salesman sitting there you can’t really push anyway, but then when I did boot it out of a corner and got the SLIGHTEST bit of rear slip the DSC went and cut the power anyway, worse still while talking about the DSC I discovered you have to turn it off every time you start the engine which frankly would just annoy me!

This combined with the brakes which seemed to bite hard from the very first mm of travel made it hard to keep up a smooth rhythm on the twisty B-road that the salesman had directed me too, you couldn’t simply ‘cover’ the brake to give you a little confidence just before turn in but I guess with less power and potentially more grip I didn’t really need to.

The overall feeling I got from the drive is that Mazda have started looking at the MX-5’s abilities from a quantative perspective, working to make it perhaps a ‘better’, more efficient drive, but in doing so may have taken away part of its soul. It feels more refined, the smoother engine note, the improved ride, the flasher interior, the improved airflow around the cabin (there is a lot less buffeting in the cabin with the roof down), but getting back into the Mk2 it just felt right.......





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