Second opinion: fast and furious, but on a small-scale

by Willy Williamson . Nov 09 2018
Mazda

Mazda

Granted I’m not the smallest guy on the planet — but sheesh — I should be able to enter and exit a car without having to call the fire department for assistance.

OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but the reality is when climbing in and out of the puny 2019 Mazda MX-5 I made sure no one was watching. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Comparing it to a go-kart is actually quite accurate. This thing is SMALL.

None of this is really a revelation, though — even back when it was officially known as the Miata the MX-5 has always been about 3/4 scale when compared to most other cars on the road.

Even in this fourth generation, it is low, it is short, it is narrow and inside, it is cramped. The thing is, though, even at six feet tall, once nestled into the cockpit I was surprisingly comfortable. It is a tight squeeze though.

The decision by Mazda Canada to send us the MX-5 in fall was initially a bit of a head-scratcher, but the truth is it really shined in the cooler weather. Since it is a convertible, I pretty much drove it both day and night with the top down and the heated seats and heater cranked.

Even with the top dropped, because the seating position is so low, there’s quite a bit of protection from the elements.

If you point the heater vents directly at your hands, even in sub-zero temps gloves weren’t needed. As for the ease of raising and lowering that soft roof? Perhaps Kelly Taylor is a little more flexible than me because it was a serious stretch to reach the release required to free the roof from its latch. So much so, it was easier to get out of the car and reach back in and undo the latch. If it was my car, I’d have tied a rope to it by the second day.

Taylor is, as usual, bang-on about the driving dynamics. It is an absolute riot to drive. Two words: fast and furious.

Even in the cooler temps, this thing sticks to the road like Velcro and corners like it’s on rails. The brakes are also alarmingly great. It is just a perfectly balanced little car that will have you remembering why you love driving moments after you climb in.

That tight cockpit is actually very well-appointed with a terrific sounding audio system and clean and easy to operate controls, and despite that tight fit, the seats are very supportive and comfortable.

Normally I’m not a big fan of manual transmissions — my mantra is I only want to shift gears while wearing a helmet (so either behind the wheel of a race car or riding a motorcycle), but Taylor is absolutely correct when he recommends the six-speed manual transmission.

Once I figured out how to place my size-13 shoes properly, shifting gears in the MX-5 is beyond easy. You can rev the heck out of the 181-horsepower in-line four-cylinder engine — squeezing the power out of it like water from a wet chamois — then back off the gas, hammer in the clutch and ever so gently click it into the next gear. Taylor may have enough room in the footwell to enjoy snicking off heel-and-toe downshifts, but I didn’t.

As a longtime motorcycle rider — who isn’t getting any younger — I really see the appeal the MX-5 offers. It allows you to get out in the fresh air and grab a few cheap thrills when no one is looking. It really is fun.

All of these factors, of course, only matter if you comfortably fit in the car.

Despite the blast I had tooling around in this pocket rocket — the reality is it’s just too small for me to ever consider buying.

There isn’t a diet on earth that’s going to make my legs any shorter — or my wife’s purse any smaller.

willy@freepress.mb.ca