Thursday, 13 December 2018

‘All new’ take on a classic that never went away

THE word vintage can mean different things to different people these days. With cars, so-called vintage models date

THE word vintage can mean different things to different people these days. With cars, so-called vintage models date from vehicles produced between 1919 and 1930.

Veteran cars come from an age further back when the internal combustion engine first powered anything on three or four wheels. Strictly speaking, a veteran car is one made before 1905.

Today there seems to be a voracious appetite for things vintage as a boom in nostalgia continues.

Just last week I bought a great vintage check shirt in a shop dedicated to vintage wear and furniture in Stroud in the Cotswolds.

Car makers have profited greatly in the past decade or so by reviving models that are at once iconic and symbolic of an age: the Sixties Mini and VW Beetle come to mind.

Yet there is one car that fits nicely into this category of icons except that unlike other all-time favourites it has never really gone away.

And it needs little introduction to any motoring enthusiast. It is a sports car that was a stroke of genius when first conceived and built. It has now had its first major remodelling outside and in since its introduction to the world at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989. I am talking, of course, about this week’s drive, the marvellous Mazda MX-5.

Not for nothing has Mazda dubbed this little pocket rocket “all new”. By combining the Japanese carmaker’s SkyActiv Technology and so-called “bold Kodo: Soul in Motion design” — common now to the Mazda range — this MX-5 should be set fair to wow buyers for another quarter of a century at least.

Once I owned a lovely 1958 MGA sports convertible that embodied that wonderful, uniquely British sports car “feel” when you got behind the wheel. Extraordinarily — and I have never really understood how they did it — the original designers back in the Eighties managed to emulate this true sports car feel in the MX-5.

It was all there: the strong, direct steering that gave positive handling, the drive configuration that provided thrills if that’s what you desired, and an open top — which in my opinion is the best and only way to drive.

And it’s a pleasure to report that Mazda has done it again with the new MX-5. It feels spanking new and up-to-the-minute, it is loaded up with the latest technology and yet still it retains that essence of British sports car tradition that many of us know and love.

There are legions of MX-5 enthusiasts around the world. An old acquaintance of mine in his retirement travelled to Dublin to buy one of the “grey import” MX-5s. These are right-hand drive MX-5s that come secondhand from Japan.

I suspect that Mazda is going to be as successful with this new model as with the original. But that’s what you get with pedigree.

When you look past the Kodo design jargon you see lovely lines in the look of the new car. Somehow this new appearance alone brings the car up to date.

But there are also the all-new SkyActiv engines available — both petrol. They are available with either 131ps or 160ps power output and delivering up to 47.1 mpg with emissions of 139mpg.

But I suggest that you will get less mpg than that because you will want to “drive” this car in every sense of the word. The 2.0-litre 160ps manual version goes 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds and will top 133mph.

Of course there is not a lot of room in the cabin and boot space is not huge — and in that sense you need to love the car and concept to buy one and live with it every day.

But it’s all there in the new MX-5 for even the most die-hard enthusiasts of the original to enjoy.

My advice is simple: if you have been a fan or better still an owner of an MX-5 in the past then get a test drive booked in the new one. You won’t regret it.

Mazda MX-5 factfile

Test car: Mazda MX-5 160ps Sport Nav

Standard car price (on-the-road): £23,295

Option fitted: Mica/Metallic/Pearl paint: £540

Test car price (on-the-road): £23,835

VED Band / Insurance Group: G / 29E

Body colour: Crystal White Pearlescent

Interior trim, colour / type: Black leather

Equipment level: Sport Nav

Engine / CO2 rating:  Petrol / 161 g/km

Additional standard equipment on this car:

Audio and Communication

Premium Bose sound system with 9 speakers (including two driver and two passenger headrest speakers)

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