Little MX-5 makes a grand case for that summer-time drive
To fully prepare myself for the launch of this new, fourth generation Mazda MX-5, I took the current one for a week long test to reacquaint myself with a car that has defined the two-seater sports car class for a generation.
This new MX-5 is a back to basics design, focusing on reduced weight and even more driving fun.
There's no doubt that the car is lighter than before; in fact it's the lightest MX-5 since the Mk 1 and that's some achievement given the equipment we now expect on our cars.
Proportions are tighter too, with a slightly shorter body and a much snugger cabin than before.
The biggest surprise is just how close your nose comes to the windscreen.
The whole concept behind this more compact cabin was explained to us by one of Mazda's top designers with the aid of a sketchbook and it provided a fascinating insight into the car designer's craft.
The overall result is a body that's pleasing to the eye but much crisper and more modern than before.
Standard LED headlights are used to lower the bonnet line and give a sleeker look to the front. An MX-5 is all about the driving experience and in this area, they've got it spot on.
Our test route took in some fairly spectacular winding roads in the hills outside Nice and the little roadster took them in its stride.
We started with the 2-litre version, which unfortunately won't be coming to Ireland, even to special order.
With 160bhp and 100kg less to move around, it was a sprightly performer.
Exiting hairpin bends, it was possible to floor the pedal in second, causing the back end to shimmy out of line in a satisfying way.
A combination of sharp, electrically assisted steering and clever electronics work together to keep you out of trouble.
At the same time, the ride is amazingly compliant, with only the biggest bumps unsettling the car in any way.
A 6spd manual transmission is the only one on offer and it was a joy to use, with a short throw and a precise action.
To complement this, the clutch is light and the pedals are ideally placed.
You sit lower than before and nearer the centre of the car, making for a more intimate driving position.
Next it was our turn in the 1.5 litre and, with 131bhp, it seems to have about the same performance as the current 2-litre car.
It's certainly quick enough but there's a definite step down in performance.
Both engines sound great though, with a pleasing rasp as you head towards the red line.
We didn't drive with the roof up, but it operates simply with one hand and no motor in sight.
A hardtop should follow next year. Neither roof impinges on boot space, which is slightly bigger than before.
Deliveries start in August with pricing from €27,995, substantially less than before.
Standard equipment includes 16ins alloys, air con, leather multi-function steering wheel and a 7ins touchscreen.
GT models come with gun metal grey alloys, heated leather seats, nine speaker Bose sound system, rear parking sensors, adaptive front lights, keyless entry and lane departure warning for a premium of €2,000.