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A JDM Mazda MX-5 Roadster gets driven

By Rigval on 19 Mar 2011

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Sometime in December last year the guys over at Sgcarmart.com had tested the Mazda MX-5 2.0. I happened to have a drive in one recently and I liked it. This car isn't the latest super smiley facelifted one that they tried but it is essentially the same car except this is the soft top 2.0 JDM roadster version with the earlier less-smiley nose that only had 10,000km on the clock. It had the optional hard top fitted when I drove it.

This car is very much the traditional British roadster. By that I mean that is is small, agile, nimble, light and most importantly affordable. This are the basic criteria that makes the MX-5 as 'British' as they come even though the car is 100% made in Japan.

The car fits me well and I am a really chunky guy. I did not have any problems entering and exiting the car. The last Mazda I remember clambering in was the 1990s FD3S Mazda RX7 Efini. That car was a superb pure sports car where every gram counted, and boy was it tight. No problems here though and I sat snug in its seats, low to the ground.

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Let's head straight to the driving experience now. The car really felt brand new and while I first was skeptical about the low mileage, the car felt new all over. It was still tight and nothing squeaked at all. This car is actually faster than its quoted 8.9seconds 0-100km/h time. I'd say if you're gunning it you'd achieve mid-8 second times instead of that high 8.9second quoted. It is also very nimble, and direction changes are made with ease.

The car's steering is extremely feelsome. There is feedback through the wheel (although not at sensitive as some would have liked it) but it is certainly better than most of the cars on sale today. It is in my opinion better than the all-wheel drive rally specials that we can buy these days and even better than a large brute, the Nissan Fairlady. Of course, this car isn't in those categories but it still has one of the purest helms a person can have their hands on. Maybe bar a Lotus Elise or two.

At speeds above 120km/h it feels secure and safe even though it only has a curb weight of around 1,150kg. When you turn into a sharp bend it responds. I remember that the front end reacts well (uncorrupted by any power as its rear wheel driven) and that rear felt secure yet not tied down till it dulls the car. Push it harder and the tail comes into play like any other rear wheel drive car. If you're in the mood (and skillful enough) you could push the tail out into oversteer if the conditions allow. I would not recommend this in town as you have curbs, sidewalks and property everywhere around you.

One more trait that I like about this car is that you sit very close to the rear axle. Not many cars give you this experience. The only other cars that allow you to sit way back are the Mercedes SLK and the BMW Z4 and these cars cost a whole lot more than the Mazda MX-5. Sitting on the axle brings you another level of car control as you can tell how the tail is reacting. And with that quick responding steering, it is a driving experience to savor.

On bumpy undulating roads, especially mid-corner bumps the tail would hop and skip a bit. This is due to the lightness of the car and the slightly firm damping that a sports car like this has. However this makes the experience of driving a British roadster even more realistic. I have driven lots of traditional British sports cars – the MG TF, Austin Healey, the MGB GT and somehow the Mazda feels like a modern version of them. These old cars have the same feeling when you drive them – the same rearward driving position and the same thrills, including the tail wagging part in corners.

Of course, not many get to experience the bygone days. But with this Mazda, you get to experience it, with air-conditioning, traction control (yes, so you won't kill yourself driving a rear wheel drive open top roadster when most of you graduated to this type of car from front wheel drive cars) and other modern creature comforts. It may not be for those power hungry types. For that you can get a 3.5liter V6 or any other big bore or turbocharged engine. This is about the driving experience and it is as traditional as it gets with the Mazda MX-5 roadster.

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

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