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Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Techo

Click to view picture gallery“The world’s best-selling roadster,
s iconic two-seater MX-5,
  has just added another accolade to
  its many awards — this time for
  ‘Best Sports Car
in the highly-
  regarded 2010 JD Power vehicle
  ownership satisfaction survey

NOTCHING UP A SATISFACTION RATING of 82.3 percent, the MX-5 beat the Mercedes SLK, VW Eos and Audi TT to claim 'Best-in-Class' honours. This isn't, of course, the first time that the MX-5 has won a JD Power award as WhatCar? magazine recently reported: "If there is one car that always does well in the sports category, it's the MX-5. It has a trophy cabinet full of JD Power awards and now adds this year's title, too."

Coincidentally, we tested a Mazda MX-5 — a Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Tech — the week before the car's triumph at the JD Power awards. In Roadster Coupe guise, the MX-5 is a cleverly packaged sports car. Usually, adding a hefty powered folding roof can seriously handicap a convertible. Amazingly, the MX-5's hard-top weighs only 37kg — and that's including all the mechanical hardware! Just to put that into perspective, the folding metal roof on a Peugeot 307CC adds more than 200kg to its kerb weight.

Even more impressive, the MX-5's two-piece hard-top folds away into the same well behind the seatbacks and ahead of the boot that the canvas roof of the soft-top Roadster uses to store its hood. So whether the Roadster Coupe's roof is up or stowed away out of sight under the rear deck, there's always a guaranteed 150 litres of boot space.

Fresh air fans will also be pleased to know that the Roadster Coupe has the fastest powered retractable hard-top of them all — 12 seconds to go from top-up to top-down (or vice versa). It's not totally automatic; first you need to release the central roof catch but it's the work of a moment to press the safety button and flip the latch. Then press the 'down' button on the fascia, count to twelve, and the roof will be down and out of sight.

“The moment you pull
away it feels nimble and
eager; more importantly,
you feel at one with
the car — what Mazda
calls Jinba Ittai...”
With the top up the MX-5 is a classy looking sports car — and still distinctly a roadster rather than a coupe. The extra convenience, security, weatherproofing and refinement it brings over the soft-topped Roadster will, for many buyers, justify the extra 2,000; Roadster Coupe models start at 19,245 and top out at 22,145.

Deciding on powerplants is as simple as tossing a coin: heads is the 124bhp 1.8; tails the 157bhp 2.0-litre. Our test 2.0-litre model had all the power you really need to enjoy yourself: 157bhp and 138lb ft of torque at 5,000rpm. Driving through the standard six-speed manual 'box (there is an automatic transmission option with steering-wheel paddle shifts should you prefer) you can get from zero to 62mph in 7.9 seconds and on to 136mph (the 1.8 tops out at 123mph and takes two seconds longer to hit 62mph). Officially, fuel consumption is 26.9mpg in town, 47.9 touring and 37.2mpg combined. Real-world driving over a week, on a good mix of fast and slow roads, saw an average recorded figure of 31.4mpg.

The Sport Tech model is the range-topper and as befits its standing it's highly specced with an electrically-operated retractable hard-top, climate control air conditioning, heated black leather seats, cruise control, premium BOSE audio system with integrated 6-CD changer and seven speakers, power-operated heated door mirrors, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, electric windows (driver's is one-touch auto down), Aux-in, Bluetooth (with voice recognition for hands-free), polished stainless steel kick-plates, tinted glass, front and front-side airbags, 17-inch alloys, front fog lights, sports suspension, a front suspension strut brace (for improved steering response), Limited Slip Differential, Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control and ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution.

So not only is the Sport Tech model well kitted but, thanks to its fast-folding hard 'hat', it is also well suited to the wide range of — and frequently unpredictable — weather that's now the norm in the UK. Which makes it ideal for everyday motoring all year round.

The black-themed cabin is certainly a snug place to be, even with the top down. If you're the one doing the driving you'll enjoy a driver-centric cockpit with a low-slung driving position and more space than you'd expect given the MX-5's compact (4m long and 1.7m wide) external dimensions. Upholstered in black leather, the lightly-bolstered sports-style seats (with integral headrests) are satisfyingly supportive and a good driving position is easily achieved even though the steering wheel only adjusts for height.

“Top dead-centre
between the rev-counter
and speedometer
is that rarity — an oil
pressure gauge
Much appreciated are the seatbelt guides on the top outer shoulder of the seatbacks that make belting up easy with no extreme stretching called for. With the roof up there's several inches of headroom; the driver's seat is also height adjustable. A comfortable clutch foot rest comes in useful when you're using the cruise control. Legroom is also good and there's ample shoulder room. And if 'junior' needs a ride, the passenger airbag can be easily disengaged with a quick turn of the key.

The fascia treatment is fluent and all neatly arrayed around a logical centre stack that's home to the audio system and the efficient climate control; at the top, flanked by the 'up' and 'down' power roof switches is the hazard warning switch while at the base you'll find the switches for the heated seats that offer five levels of 'roast'. The climate control system, incidentally, has dedicated settings for roof-up and roof-down modes — so when you're driving topless in your MX-5 you're always as 'cool' as you can be.

The leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel (with remote buttons for the audio, 'phone and cruise) feels good in your hands, and clearly visible through the top 180-degree arc of the rim is a five-dial instrument cluster; all feature bold white graphics on black faces. Top dead-centre between the rev-counter and speedometer is that rarity — an oil pressure gauge. Just below this sits an LCD display that shows average fuel consumption and the ambient temperature.

The MX-5's centre tunnel is fairly wide and the stubby gear lever is sited exactly where you want it. A traditional handbrake is mounted on the driver's side and behind it is a storage bin accessed via a sliding lid that can be used for cups or oddments; ahead of the gear lever at the bottom of the centre stack is another open storage bin (with a rubber mat to minimise rattling and to keep things in place) that's conveniently close to the AUX socket for connecting MP3 players to the car's audio system.

Additional cabin storage is provided by a cubby with a lockable lid between the seatbacks in the rear bulkhead; when you need to top up with petrol, this is where you'll find the filler flap release. The front glovebox is lockable and there are also small round bins for bottles ahead of each door handle, along with tight net pockets on each door. If you're not that tall you may be able to free up some extra storage space behind the front seats but otherwise it's the boot — all 150 litres of it. Actually, as long as you're using soft luggage, it really is quite accommodating.

“The Roadster Coupe
has the fastest powered
retractable hard-top
of them all — 12 seconds
to go from top-up to
By reputation the MX-5 is one of the world's most gratifying two-seater sports cars to drive. It certainly has the right credentials: compact dimensions, front-midship engine, rear-wheel drive, 50:50 weight distribution, a sports suspension that includes Bilstein front and rear dampers and a light body weight.

Put the MX-5 to the test and the moment you pull away it feels nimble and eager; more importantly, you feel at one with the car — what Mazda calls Jinba Ittai. And, yes, it's fun to drive. But the real charm is that it's fun whether the pedal's to the metal or you're just pootling along the back roads on a balmy summer's day with your favourite tracks wafting out of the BOSE speakers. Perhaps best of all is that the MX-5 is very self-assured — so much so that you never feel you have to 'prove' yourself when driving it.

If you are in the mood to tango, then the driver's seat of the MX-5 Roadster Coupe is a pretty good place to be: the suspension (double-wishbone front and multi-link rear) provides an agreeable middle ground between sporting and comfortable, and handling ability is nicely paired to the amount of power under the bonnet. Extracting the most from the MX-5 is no hardship — the six-speed 'gearbox's short-throw change action is accurate and nicely 'snickety' and the 1,999cc twin-overhead cam engine spins readily to its 7,500rpm rev limit although, with peak torque not arriving until a high 5,000rpm and full power at 7,000rpm, you do need to rev it to extract max power.

The hydraulic-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is quick and sharp, the brakes — discs all round; ventilated at the front — powerful and progressive, and the grip from the 205/45 Bridgestone Potenzas more than sufficient. With the electronic driving aids left to do their business, the MX-5 is hard to upset. But for those times you want to switch out the dynamic stability control and put your skills to the test, you'll find the DSC deactivation button is sited conveniently close to the wheel.

At the legal limit, cruising roof-down on the motorway is pleasant; top-down driving elsewhere is even more enjoyable. A neat, flip-up wind deflector between the rear headrests helps minimise back-biting draughts but with the windows up, wind-in-the-hair motoring is something you'll find yourself doing at every opportunity in an MX-5 — winter and summer. Addictive? Undoubtedly, but in the nicest possible way. —

Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport Tech
| 21,770
Maximum speed: 136mph | 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 31.4mpg
Power: 157bhp | Torque: 138lb ft | CO2 181g/km