The Chicago Auto Show, 1989. This was when the world saw the Mazda MX-5 for the first time. Little did many know, at the time, that they were looking at an automotive masterpiece and a business phenomenon. Over this 26 year timespan we have seen three, soon to be four, generations of the MX-5 with overall production figures hitting just shy of one million. The MX-5 is the best selling two seater roadster ever made. This immense success isn’t just down to it’s attractive price tag for a rear wheel drive roadster, or for it’s attractive looks, especially when the roof is down. It is famed most of all for it’s sublime simplicity and being a true driver’s car. This impeccable motoring pleasure makes it a favourite for buyers and motoring journalists alike.
So what makes this stunning car such a popular choice and a favourite amongst us journalists who drive a wide varieties of machinery? Well for starters, especially in the MK1, it’s the integrity of the driving experience. I adore the fact that Mazda wanted to make something pure and you can really feel that when driving it. It is so easy to get lost in all of the technology in todays cars that you can be forgiven for forgetting what truly makes driving so great. The MK1 is a beautifully designed car which weighs in at less than a ton. A brilliant little 1.6 or 1.8-litre four cylinder engine was the choice you were given and you’ll be more than happy with either. Excellent weight distribution means you can chuck it into corners and come out alive and smiling at the other end. This is all without mentioning, of course, the absolutely exquisite gearbox. Without trying to open the floodgates for cliché, the best way to describe it is pulling back the bolt on a sniper rifle. It is so assertive and mechanical. The only way real you’ll get an idea of what the gearbox is like is to drive an MX-5 yourself, because even today nothing else feels quite like it. The fact that the MK1 is still marvellous to drive 26 years on really does show what an achievement the MX-5 was and still is. As the years have gone by there have been changes and refinements so the MX-5 can continue it’s legacy. The MK2 was introduced in 1999 with a touch more power, but lead to a sad goodbye to the pop-up headlights of the MK1. The third generation MX-5 came out in 2006 and brought with it a 2.0-litre engine. Obviously, as the years progressed, there have been certain technological additions of creature comforts and luxuries that the modern buyer demands. However, through all this the true spirit of the MX-5 has never been lost. It is still all about the excitement you get every time you go for a drive, which is the notion that sits right at the heart of this roadster.
Another reason why the MX-5 is immensely popular is because it is so manageable and easy to drive. You get into a Ferrari or particularly something like a Lamborghini and you are constantly thinking about how much power you can put down before you spin out of control or whether you’re approaching a corner too fast. You very early enjoy a supercar on public roads. In the MX-5 you can have just as much fun as the supercar heavyweights in the real world but without worrying about what you’re going to say to the insurance company when you crash your £180,000 pride and joy.
When you sit in the MX-5 it feels like you have always owned one. It’s infinite charm rubs off on you immediately. When you get in and close the door you are immersed in a car that really does feel significant. Everything is how you want it, all the controls are where you want them to be and not over done. The journey consists of just you and the car, exactly how you will want it. The seating position is second to none and the seats themselves are remarkably comfortable. A smile will be on your face when you drive an MX-5: you feel connected with the car every time you tackle a corner or heel-toe. Every gear change feels special and every time you put your foot down and give it blast down a country road, you cannot help but fall in love with it.
There is honestly nothing available today that can give you so much fun for anywhere near the price, especially a second hand MK1 or MK2, and it is as simple as that. From the perfect seating position to the brilliantly weighted and intuitive steering, not to mention it’s everyday usability and how comfortable, it is there really is nothing quite like it. You can take your McLaren 570S’ and Ferrari 488 GTB’s and keep them, because the car I am most excited about this year desperately want to drive is the MK4 Mazda MX-5.
We took one of every generation MX-5 on a road trip along the south coast. Read about it HERE.