In this job I drive more cars in a year than most people do in their entire life. That is a lot of cars in the 4 years I have been a motoring journalist… They have varied from supercars to super-mini’s and on the whole I have come to one generalisation about most of them. Cars today aren’t as much fun to drive as what they could be. The ever tightening safety regulations of this and that adds weight and emission standards often leading to a car not being quite as powerful as what the manufacturer would have liked. Though these things help Fred the polar bear and keep you from looking like an extra off of casualty, they don’t help you achieve that real buzz you get when you are bombing down a B-road hooking up one corner after another. If you have no idea what I am talking about then I feel sorry for you as you have never experienced the best sensation driving has to offer. So, if I am telling you that many new cars are not as fun as they should be, what am I telling you to buy? Well, something that is all about the sensation of driving, not just putting shopping in the boot.
In 1989 Mazda sparked a revolution with their new MX-5 sports car. Starting life as a pure experiment, it takes its name from Mazda eXperimental number 5, this little scamp was so successful that it killed off its British rivals to the point where 24 years later the MX-5 is still being sold in showrooms today and the likes of MG, Triumph and Marcos are out of the sports car game. Over in America the car caused such a sensation that it is reported that dealers were putting a $3,000 premium on the car and still the waiting list grew.
Why did the MX-5 take the automotive industry by storm? Simple. It was very affordable, great on fuel and had bullet proof Japanese reliability. However, the MX-5’s best trait is how it moves. The MK1 weighs in at less than a ton and though it only has 115BHP (in its preferred 1.6 format), that makes for a power to weight ratio of 121BHP/ton. To put that into context its almost the same as a modern Golf GTi but in a package smaller than a shoe! Though it is an old car now, it can still put many brand new motors to shame. The cars balance is perfect as it leaps from corner to corner. The steering is incredibly communicative and accurate allowing you to place the car exactly where you want it. The gearbox is delicious… Short sharp throws clicks new cogs in place with immense levels of satisfaction. With the roof down in the summer whilst the car seemingly pivots around your hips, there is no greater joy. The engine note over 4,000rpm is angry and oh so intoxicating, its inline four cylinder dual overhead cam simply encourages you to push harder. A little mention for the hooligans out there, it drifts like a dream.
Don’t go thinking I can’t take my own advice, I bought one last year for these very reasons. It really does do 35MPG+! In a sports car! The boot is perfectly fine to live with day to day and replacement parts are cheap and plentiful. Sure, I get the odd “hair dresser” comment from my friends but at that point you simply pop the lights up and smile, everyone falls in love with this car once they have driven it. It is a machine you will find yourself driving just for the sake of it because it is that enjoyable. A mundane trip to pick someone up instantly becomes an adventure in this little car and considering how much they are on the second hand market, they could just be the biggest automotive bargain out there.