Monday 24 October 2016

Motoring: Why the MX-5 is simply exceptional

The legend lives on as lighter MX-5 presses fun, fun, fun button

Whoever said you can’t improve on perfection obviously didn’t cc the email to the chaps in Mazda.

 You see, the boffins in white coats eat, sleep and drink words like “handling” and “performance” and they have the accolades to prove it.

That’s why the  MX-5 is the best-selling roadster of all time  – notching up almost a million  sales since it went into production in 1988.

 It is by far the best fun one could have in a small car – and all within the speed limit.

Its go-kart-like feel is now legendary and, to this day, completely unrivalled.

 The winning formula of superior power to weight ratio, rear wheel drive and perfect 50:50 weight distribution ensures a magnificent drive dynamic.

But the last model had all of that in spades, so what’s the big difference here?

For starters, it’s 100kgs lighter (or yours truly after a week on the cabbage water diet), while the clever use of strengthened steel underneath gives it a lower centre of gravity.

A re-designed chassis has been stiffened further  (lowered by 10mm and shortened by 15mm) with shorter overhangs (45mm), and when twinned with specially tuned engines and transmission, the iconic drive is further enhanced.

It looks fantastic too, with major nips, tucks and creases giving the car a much more manly, aggressive stance.

The slim LED headlights and gaping front grille complemented by snazzy sunken foglamps set off the  sloping bonnet.

At the rear, circular light clusters and the absence of a boot latch (the release button is above the number plate housing) continue those clean lines, and one could be forgiven for thinking it’s a Jaguar F-Type from a distance.

Inside, Mazda’s KODO design is evident, with quite a similar dash layout as the CX-3 and loaded with technology such as sat nav, music connectivity and phone.

Irish customers get to choose from the entry-level MX-5 and the GT.

Standard kit includes 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth, air con, cruise control, LED lights, seven-inch touchscreen display and multi-media commander, USB ports and electric windows.

Opt for the GT (an extra €2,000) and you’ll also get Gun Metal alloys, Bose surround system, black leather interior with red stitching, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and lane departure warning.

 But this little drop-top is all about F-factor and boy, it didn’t disappoint in the fun department.

The fourth generation MX-5 is built around the modest 1.5-litre petrol engine generating 131bhp and emissions of 139g/km meaning €280 in road tax.

It’s high revving unit never fails to put a smile on your face as you push this little imp all the way to 8,000rpm while the symphony from the exhausts just encourages you even more.

The mountainous roads around Barcelona proved a perfect match, forcing you to work the sublime short- throw gearbox and keeping the revs in the red.

Bend after glorious bend, the little roadster was impeccably behaved, and the harder you pushed the more refined she became.

A truly magnificent machine and worthy of the iconic badge.

Available only in canvas roof, but Mazda plan to launch a hard-top next year.

Prices for the new MX-5 start at €27,995.


All-new S-Max is still king of the people carriers  as it gets even more luxurious


It’s been a busy week at Ford as they launched not one but three new models in Ireland.

The dust covers came off the much-awaited Galaxy, S-MAX,  and the super-luxurious Vignale (a posh badge for the Mondeo).

Let’s start with the mighty S-MAX, which in the past we dubbed the “king of the people carriers”.

Granted, the Galaxy is bigger and more practical for families with teenagers, but it’s trumped by the drive dynamic, sportier look and, above all, the €3,000 price difference.

Staying true to its original design which promised “style, driving pleasure and advanced features without sacrificing space, flexibility and fuel efficiency”, the second generation MPV is even more awesome.

Build quality, especially the interior, puts the S-MAX head and shoulders above its rivals.

Sure, the test cars on offer were as sumptuous as the suites in the Carton House venue, with wall-to-wall leather and suede at every touch, but even the heavy clunk of the doors whispered premium.

But practicality is the name of the game in this segment, and Ford have left nothing to chance. With all seven seats up (the final row are really only for children under 12) there is 285 litres of space which trebles to 965 litres with row three folded and a van-like 2,020 with row two down.

As with its predecessor, all the seats fold flat, and thanks to the Easy-entry the middle pews tilt and slide individually, offering 32 separate configurations. This model will be offered with the Hands-Free Liftgate that can be opened or closed using a kicking motion beneath the rear bumper.

The new S-MAX will be off-ered in two series, Zetec and Titanium, and standard kit includes 17-inch alloys, fog lights, daytime running lights, Quickclear windscreen, Ford SYNC, front and rear parking sensors, multi-function leather steering wheel, dual zone air-con, keyless start and auto stop/start

The Titanium adds LED daytime running lights, chrome door line, auto lights and wipers, auto high beam, ambient lighting, lane keeping aid and traffic sign recognition (incorporating Intelligent Speed Limiter).

Engine-wise, you can choose from three 2.0-litre diesels in 120, 150 and 180bhp or the award-winning 1.5-litre 160bhp EcoBoost petrol engine.

There is also an AWD version in both the S-Max and Galaxy.

On the down side, Ford engineers have removed the signature 747-style handbrake in favour of an electronic one and dumbed down the airvents on the front wheel arches.

Thankfully, the drive and handling were not tampered with – just improved.

The new 180bhp diesel engine gives it a real edge, and coupled with superb steering and minimal body roll, it’s still the only MPV that drives like a hot hatch.

All hail the king.

The new S-MAX starts at €35,760.

Watch this space for reviews of the new Galaxy and Mondeo Vignale.

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