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Car reviews - Mazda - MX-5 - Roadster Coupe

Launch Story

Mazda logo5 Sep 2006

By ANDREW MACLEAN

MAZDA has joined the ever-growing legion of hardtop convertibles with its new MX-5 Roadster Coupe. Developed alongside the latest award-winning NC soft-top version, the Roadster Coupe offers greater security and practicality with an electronically-controlled three-piece roof that does little in detracting from the original philosophy of creating a lightweight open-top sportscar. The Roadster Coupe weighs just 37kg more than the soft-top, is powered by the same 2.0-litre MZR four-cylinder engine with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission and now also introduces extra safety with the addition of traction control and dynamic stability control as standard equipment.

We like:
Extra security, agile handling, quick and easy roof action, value for money, headroom and seating position

We don't like:
Lacklustre engine note, steering-wheel buttons on auto


THE Gold Coast in August must have seemed like the ideal place to reveal the MX-5 Roadster Coupe.

And it was – for all the wrong reasons - with gloomy skies and slippery roads.

The primary advantage that the Roadster Coupe has over its soft-top sibling is that it is two cars in one, a fact that was thoroughly tested during the drive through the Gold Coast hinterland last week.

It started out with patchy cloud and an invitation for top-down fun and ended soggy but secure with the top up - which was hardly what Mazda had hoped for but provided the perfect acid test for the practicality of the hard top and the added safety of the new Dynamic Stability Control system.

One thing was clear: no matter what Mother Nature dishes up, the MX-5 is fun to drive.

With the wind in your hair, there is obviously very little to compare the Roadster Coupe with the soft-top. But when the windscreen starts to get smattered with drops of water, the Roadster Coupe comes into its own.

Making sure your do doesn’t get drowned is as simple as pulling over on the side of the road and pressing the dash-mounted button. While you could probably cover yourself quicker in a torrential downpour with the soft-top, it requires a lot more effort and a potential back strain to reach over and get the roof latched.

With the Roadster Coupe, sit back and let the motors do all the hard work. In the end, it is probably quicker – and definitely a lot easier and more convenient - to get back on the road again with the Roadster Coupe because you don’t have to undo your seatbelt.

With the roof up, and because the MX-5 has such a great low-lying seat position, there is a generous amount of headroom and it is reasonably insulated from wind noise, although there was a bit of buffeting from the base of the roof, which is right at ear level and therefore noticeable.

The MX-5 is renowned for its nimble chassis and fun driving experience. The extra weight of the Roadster Coupe has done nothing to diminish that, with great steering and plenty of mid-corner grip still evident – although the six-speed auto car we drove did have a tendency to wiggle its rear-end slightly under heavy braking and when a lower gear was selected.

While the overall balance is still up there with cars that cost 10 times as much, the thicker front bar and stiffer rear suspension has induced a tendency for slight understeer at the extreme edge of it handling.

But, on slippery roads, the DSC and traction would assist in keeping the car firmly planted, and it was only noticeable by the fact the light flickered on the dash every now and then. The electronic age hasn’t taken anything away from MX-5 either.

The only gripes I have is that, while the engine has plenty of zing, it doesn’t sound like a rorty little sports car should and the combination of paddles for upshifts and buttons for downshifts in the auto takes some time to adjust to.

It would be much easier to have the right paddle for up and the left paddle for down, which would also clean up the fussy control-filled centre hub of the steering wheel itself.

Overall, there is not a lot to dislike about the MX-5 Roadster Coupe. It still looks like an MX-5, goes like and MX-5 and drives like an MX-5. But, while purists may argue it isn’t an MX-5, it is more practical and, fully-loaded, is still great value for money.

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