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SELWYN TIMES Latest Christchurch news at www. .kiwi Tuesday June 6 2017 35 Driven MX-5 an example of advanced engineering • By Ross Kiddie “SAVE UP your money,’’ was the advice from Masaya Kodama, CX-5 project manager, Mazda Motor Corporation, Japan. I had asked Mr Kodama if a new Mazda RX was likely given the concept drawings of a new sports car have been on show. Mr Kodama said rotary engine development was ongoing, and from those comments I would say a new RX is inevitable. I’ve long considered Mazda’s development of its rotary engine to be one of the company’s finest engineering achievements. Although I’ve never had the good fortune to own a rotary, my son has a RX7 turbo and occasionally I get to experience the feel and performance of that amazing sport coupe. As history has served to prove, Mazda has advanced engineering techniques right through its passenger vehicle line-up, and just recently one of its other sport models, the MX-5, was launched in a new variation – that with a folding convertible roof – made of metal. Of course, the soft-top MX-5, is still available in four variants, and the concept of a folding metal roof isn’t new; targa tops, as they have become commonly known, have been around for many decades. However, the point I’m MAZDA MX-5 RFS: Convertible hardtop. making is that the mechanism which transforms this popular sports car is another example of Mazda’s engineering prowess. The 13sec electric operation is just sheer genius, it can also be open and closed at speeds of up to 10km/h and, for interest’s sake, boot space remains the same for all models. The concept for which we like MX-5 hasn’t been compromised, it is still the cheeky, two-seater which thrills with its chassis balance and associated handling prowess. Whereas the soft-top is available in both 1.5-litre and 2-litre variants, the hard-top RF (retractable fastback) is a 2-litre car only, but there’s also a choice of specification and gearbox. The GSX sits at $48,495, a Limited variant adds $3000 and $4500 (auto), while the test car was a special launch edition model with automatic transmission, it tops the range at $54,995. Before you jump to the conclusion that the hard-top needs the 2-litre engine because of the metal structure’s increase in weight, bear in mind that that adds just 47kg into the car and performance is far from compromised. The acceleration times between the two models are much the same – 0-100km/h in 6.6sec and 7.2sec respectively. Even though the 1998cc, twincamshaft unit is built to Mazda’s SkyActive efficiency and emission-friendly parameters, it is still a high performing engine with its 118kW and 200Nm ratings. It works freely through the six-speed automatic thanks to low early gearing and a broad top end gear to promote highway economy. • Price – Mazda MX-5 RFS, $54,995 • Dimensions – Length, 3915mm; width, 1735mm; height, 1235mm • Configuration – Fourcylinder, rear-wheel-drive, 1998cc, 118kW, 200Nm, six-speed manual • Performance – 0-100km/h, 7.4sec • Fuel usage – 7l/100km Mazda claims a seven-litre per 100km (40mpg) combined cycle fuel usage average, which sat well with the 8l/100km (35mpg) figure showing on the test car’s trip computer when I took it back to the dealership. I’ve often been a bit critical of the MX-5 and the sound that is generated within the cockpit, history has it that it has always been a bit noisy. I guess performance car buyers like that and they may be disappointed in the hard-top as it is far quieter and far more to my liking; there is an angry engine sound when it’s working hard, but under normal conditions the hard-top promotes a quiet in-cabin environment and I relate to that. Not only is the engine a delight in terms of flexibility and honesty, the MX-5’s greatest virtue is that of its feel-good factor. The suspension and chassis engineering is a marvel. Of course, drive is sent to the rear wheels and that promotes a pure handling sensation, add in the fully involving feel from the steering wheel and the compliance within the spring and damper rates and you have a true sports car, one which delivers the fun factor along with the ability to conquer the most challenging of corners. Take into account, too, that the tyres aren’t huge (205/45 x 17in), there isn’t a lot of load put on them, and with a height of just 1235mm there is little gravitational force working against the convertible in a quick corner, it handles flat and controlled. There’s some flexibility built into the traction control system, you can make it a little tail-happy before the electronic devices counteract oversteer, but that doesn’t interrupt the fun. The MX-5 in this form has lost none of its playful character and that is why it has been such a popular car, it has been built with character in mind and it doesn’t disappoint. For someone whose old joints don’t work quite as well as they once did, I didn’t find entry and exit into the test car onerous, in fact I was finding excuses to get in the vehicle and go for a drive.