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That's what you call fun: new MX-5 will put a smile on your face


Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 interior

Mazda MX-5 interior


Mazda MX-5

Driving the new Mazda MX-5 in Spain this week evoked memories of an unforgettable road trip from 21 years ago.

It was a holiday around Ireland in a friend's 1966 MGB convertible.

Those were the days indeed.

USA 94 was in full swing; World Cup fever was in every town and village we passed through.

But it was the car, then 28 years old, that was to be the real star.

It had a turn of pace that belied its advanced age, and combined impeccable reliability with the joys of open-top motoring.

It can be one of the great joys of driving when you get that mix.

It was a road trip where we kept on driving just for the sake of it.

Overnight destinations were just stopping points to plan the next part of the journey.

And if any car can claim to be the spiritual successor to the lightweight, fun-to-drive and affordable British sports car of the sixties, the diminutive Mazda is it.

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Since its launch 26 years ago it has become the best-selling two-seater roadster in the world.

That is some achievement.

This new fourth-generation model harks back to the original model of 1989, is smaller and nearly 100kg lighter than the outgoing version.

Sitting lower, with short overhangs, it has those near-perfect roadster proportions and balance.

Seeing it in the flesh, it really looked the part from every angle.

It has the lot: KUDO design-inspired curves, LED lights, and a gaping front grille that gives it a more muscular appearance, while round tail-lights provide a different and distinctive rear view.

The interior has a more cockpit-like feel now.

The seats are closer to the the centre line of the car.

And the instrument panel is designed to be symmetrical around the driver.

It is all part of a package designed to make this one of those memorable drives.

The manual lightweight fabric roof can be put up and down in seconds while sitting in the car.

Now that is a far cry from the pulling and stretching I recall trying to attach the roof of the MGB.

A hardtop version is expected in about a year's time. That should be interesting.

At the heart of the MX-5 is Mazda's new 1.5-litre petrol engine which takes over from the old 1.8-litre.

There's also a 2-litre petrol but Mazda Ireland say they have no plans to bring it in, for now anyway.

Don't worry though - the 1.5-litre is a little gem.

It suits this roadster perfectly with its 129bhp at your disposal and a lovely level of torque.

It sounds great too, revs happily out to about 7,500rpm, and it is matched to one of the slickest 6spd manual gearboxes you'll find anywhere at the moment.

Give the MX-5 a run through some twisting, hilly roads and it's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

The steering gave pin-point accuracy and the chassis let us know exactly what was going on at all times.

The best news is perhaps that improved CO2 emissions of 139g/km mean lower prices than the old model.

That doesn't happen too often but is all the more welcome when it does.

Two spec levels go on sale next month - Roadster and GT and they will cost from €27,995 and €29,995 respectively.

Make no mistake about it, this is a little car that will have you taking the long way home time after time.

Or even a road trip around Ireland. You'd never know.

That's how much fun you can get from it

Oh, and that MGB is still going strong, and looking forward to celebrating its 50th next year.