It’s a damp Monday morning in Harrogate. Just right for testing one of the world’s best-loved convertibles.
I only half-jest, for anyone who has ever owned a soft-top will tell you that how they perform on miserable wet mornings is just as important as how they handle sun-shining summers.
This is the Mazda MX-5, a car which is approaching a million sales making it quite easily the most successful sports cars ever and a fine descendant of the likes of Triumph Spitfire, MG and co.
We’re on the fourth generation now and this model is the MX-5 Sports Graphite, a limited edition model which brings comfort and luxury to a model which has hitherto prided itself on being spartan.
This model, from £20,995 on the road, has TomTom navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and (whisper it to sports car fans of old) heated seats.
Inspired by ‘urban design’ (whatever that is), the new model’s exterior features eye-catching paint finishes that are unique to this model – Aquatic Blue Mica, Zeal Red Mica or Aluminium Silver Metallic – with a contrasting ‘Meteor Grey’ retractable hardtop roof.
Sport Graphite (doesn’t it sound like a fast pencil?) is available with two engine options: the spirited 126ps, 1.8-litre or the sporty 160ps, 2.0-litre. Both feature the generous equipment levels of the standard model enhanced with an array of extra items.
Every ‘Sport Graphite’ gains 17in dark gunmetal alloy wheels, black leather heated seats with unique grey stitching, 5.8in navigation system with integrated hands-free kit, glossy dark grey fashion bars, colour-co-ordinated hard-top roof and door mirrors all in striking Meteor Grey, and limited edition badges on the exterior and interior.
So far so good. They can add all this finery but it’s how it handles which really counts and I can report that the MX-5, for all its titivation, remains sublimely good on the road. The design cues might ‘flow through to the interior’ as Mazda put it, but it’s the way it sticks to the road that counts. And the way the engine burbles and responds with a jolt.
Modern MX-5s are a little flabby compared to the lean and mean early versions but you can still admire the way the snug cabin holds you firm. Is there a better driving position on the road? I doubt it. And while fairweather convertible fans wish for Spring, ‘proper’ drivers will enjoy sizzling along through autumn puddles.
Elsewhere in this finely-honed motor you will find unique grey stitching extended to the leather steering wheel and handbrake; glossy dark grey steering wheel spokes and dashboard panel; an alloy pedal set; and MX-5 floor mats with unique grey piping.
The generous standard specification of the limited edition MX-5 models also include stainless steel scuff plates, body-coloured door handles, side, driver and passenger airbags, CD radio with Auxiliary jack and six speakers, electric windows, electric mirrors with heating function and climate control air-conditioning. For optimum handling, all MX-5 models also feature Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Traction Control System (TCS) while the 2.0 litre Roadster Coupe model is also equipped with a Limited Slip Differential (LSD), cruise control, auto-dimming rear view mirror and Bilstein suspension.
l Mazda has increased the fleet appeal of its CX-5 compact SUV range with the addition of a new low-emission model. Costing £24,495 on the road – £25,195 with navigation – the Mazda CX-5 SE-L Lux sits between the existing Mazda CX-5 2.2-litre 150ps SE-L and Sport models. Both the Mazda CX-5 SE-L Lux and SE-L Lux Nav are in showrooms now.
Mazda MX-5 2.0i Sport GraphitePRICE: £22,995. The 1.8i version costs £20,995 and the basic MX-5 is £18,495. Roadster Coupe starts at £19,995
ENGINE: a 2.0 litre engine generating 136ps
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 136mph, 0 to 60mph in 7.9 seconds
COSTS: Combined 36.2mpg
INSURANCE: Group 26E
WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles warranty