Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Review: 2013 Mazda MX-5 2.0 PRHT

Photos by Ulysses Ang
The last time anyone took a serious look at the Mazda MX-5, the Toyobaru twins haven’t been conceived and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe was nowhere in sight. At the time, it was solely the only Japanese sports car you can buy, unless you count the ridiculously overpriced Nissan 350Z. That was some eight years ago, and now, the market place is very different. You’ve got the Toyota 86, the Subaru BRZ, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the Honda CR-Z and to a lesser degree, the Mini Roadster, the Peugeot RCZ, and the Ford Mustang all gunning for the same less than P 3-million sports car crowd. What hasn’t changed? The Mazda MX-5.

Yes, a full eight years later, the MX-5 has remained remarkably the same. A nip/tuck in 2008 did update the looks and features, but for the most part, it’s the very same car even down to its P 2,217,000 price tag—it’s inflation proof! Essentially, it’s a sports car pre-KODO, pre-Skyactiv, pre-Takeri—it’s the Mazda of old; old zoom-zoom, if you will. And since a new one is reportedly coming out (a joint-venture with FIAT no less), it’s time to give the MX-5 another, perhaps final look before it kicks the bucket.

Swathed in Competition Yellow hue, the Mazda MX-5 still draws some attention. Parked tail-to-tail against the first or second-generation MX-5, it’s clear that this model has grown a couple of centimeters in every dimension, but next to the Toyobaru twins, it’s definitely smaller and much more compact. Despite its age, the MX-5 maintains the lusty coke bottle shape with the bulging front, slim in the middle, and bulging again at the rear. It’s imbued with the classic 1960’s roadster look but with a high-tech twist. The 2008 refresh gave it a new smiling grille (as opposed to an ovoid one), chinky headlamps, and wing-shaped fog lamp housings. All in all, it remains a subject of subtleness with the absence of unnecessary tacked on aero parts. On that note though, those wanting luxury or comfort certainly won’t be satisfied with the MX-5.

Don’t get it wrong, the MX-5 is still a great drive, but technophiles and connoisseurs of luxury better look elsewhere. Though there are some toys to fiddle around with, the features list isn’t as long as you’d expect. The cabin, already limited by its 2-seater seating capacity, is cozy at best and can get cramped if you’re 6 feet in height or obese or both. The seats adjust in every conceivable direction, but the steering wheel doesn’t offer telescopic adjustment. That said, the driving position is still good, fulfilling at least an important sports car prerequisite. The gauges, with its five-meter cluster and vertically-resting speedo and tachometer are nicely legible and free from the usual gimmicks. There’s little else to say about the Spartan cabin, perhaps with three exceptions: the plastics which are plasticky, the Bose sound system, which is good but not great, and the piece de resistance, the folding roof.

The only MX-5 sold in the Philippines comes with the PRHT or Power Retractable Hard Top feature which essentially makes this two cars in one. The composite plastic roof (a light-weight alternative to a metal one) transforms the MX-5 from a road-going tanning salon to an all-weather coupe in a mere 12 seconds; and all it takes is to unlatch the roof and push a dash-mounted button. It’s a real spectacle, watching the roof break into three panels and disappear into the trunk.  The space penalty’s minimal too—with the cargo space equaling the regular MX-5.  An added bonus is that the MX-5 PRHT looks equally attractive with the roof up as it does with the roof down—something that can’t be said with all other coupe-convertibles. Sadly, the same can’t be said with the rigidity of the roof’s construction. It suffers from the worse niggles, squeaks, rattles, and other odd noise that even a fully cranked up stereo can’t mask.

Mercifully, the rest of the MX-5 package fairs better. It’s still great driving entertainment. Under the shapely hood lies a longitudinally-mounted 2.0-liter inline-4 that does 170 horsepower and 189 Nm of torque.  Those output figures certainly don’t scream performance, but with the bantam 1,130 kilogram curb weight, the car feels extremely nippy especially when the short-throw 6-speed manual is put to work (there’s no automatic transmission option).  Aurally, it loses to the 86/BRZ’s flat-four motor, but at least there’s plenty of push throughout the rev range. 100 km/h arrives in 6.9 seconds, a tad quicker than the Toyobaru twins. Fuel consumption is so-so at 6.2 km/L in city traffic and 11.79 km/L on the highway (mixed 9.52 km/L).

The Mazda MX-5 rides on a sport tuned suspension and low-profile 17-inch alloy shod with 205/45 R 17 tires. Despite this, the ride is surprisingly supple, damping out speed bumps and broken pavement which would otherwise shake dental fillings out. Though it shows very good balance when pushed hard through a twisty course, the MX-5’s less than modern origins soon betray it with less than linear turn-in and a dead steering feel. In addition, the stability control can get overly cautious, kicking in at the slightest hint of provocation. It can be turned off through, and when it is off, the car feels fun and controllable; just not Toyota 86 fun.

And that’s the biggest problem. The Mazda MX-5 may still be a sweet and wonderful ride after all these years, but the rest have all caught up. Yes, the MX-5 is still the only car less than P 3-million that offers the novelty of a folding roof, but how much of the time will you use it in Metro Manila? Mazda markets the PRHT feature like having two cars in one, and though that maybe true, those two cars are clearly compromised. Yes, the Mazda MX-5 is still a peppy little sports car and is a must-have if you want the folding roof, but for sports car fanatics, it badly needs an update real soon.

2013 Mazda MX-5 PRHT
Ownership 2.0 PRHT
Year Introduced 2005 (Facelifted: 2008)
Vehicle Classification Sports Car
The Basics
Body Type 2-door Sports Car
Seating 2
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline 4
BHP @ rpm 170 @ 6,700
Nm @ rpm 189 @ 5,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 95~
Transmission 6 MT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,990
Width (mm) 1,720
Height (mm) 1,245
Wheelbase (mm) 2,330
Curb Weight (kg) 1,153
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires 205/45R17
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 4
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Front
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat No
On-Board Computer No
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
6 CD
No. of Speakers 7
Steering Wheel Controls Yes

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