Never too late to live the dream

Tired of cruising the seven seas? Traipsed to every far-flung corner of this wide and wonderful country? Parked the big-bore motorcycle? Still looking for some simple and long-lasting pleasures?

Maybe it’s time to consider, or re-consider, a sports car. A two-seater is all that’s really needed most days – leave that old wagon in the shed for family occasions, baby-sitting and birthday party duties and such. A two-seater brings smiles to every drive, whether it’s down to the shops for a litre of milk or cruising coastal boulevards. Without the kids. There’s a fair choice of sportsters around these days, some faster and fancier and more expensive than others. Yet there’s no need to break the bank or blow the budget on Lamborghinis. Mazda’s sweet MX-5 can be had for the cost of a couple of meanders down the Rhine.

There are two options in this fourth-generation of a much acclaimed convertible with the 1.5 litre-engine MX-5 with six-speed manual starting at $31,990 and a 2-litre version at $34,490. Bargains both. It’s old school stuff here. Tonnes of fun without breaking laws. Just a lightweight, open-topped and well-balanced car, quite content to trundle along with the traffic or be pushed along up a mountain road early one Sunday.

There’s not a deal of difference between the two MX-5s. Both are most handsome two-seaters with cloth tops and the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions with rear-wheel drive plus the choice of two trim levels. These are the best of an agile breed with a studied engineering program to keep weight down, keep the car balanced and imbue a “comfortableness to control a car in rhythm” according to Mazda.

Chief differences between the sculpted sisters include engine size and the 2-litre car wearing 17-inch rims compared with the 1.5 litre’s 16-inch alloy wheels. The punchier machine weighs in about 25kg heavier. The 2-litre puts out 118kW and 200Nm compared with the 1.5’s 96kW and 150Nm. Again, all this power and torque is found high in the rev range. While appreciating the go-get-’em character of the 1.5 litre MX-5, we’d be tempted to add a 2-litre version to the garage wish list.

The MX-5 with bigger engine works well with the auto; that combination may not be for everyone but whether blasting down mountainsides, concentrating on corners and shifting gears with paddles behind the steering wheel or whether cruising the strip, the auto is always a ready worker.

A little extra torque down low wouldn’t go astray but the nature of both engines encourages motoring high in the rev range. The 1.5 litre is perhaps best mated to the six-speed manual, the driver guiding the willing little engine to great heights. Both MX-5s offer top driving positions and handsome ergonomics.

It’s a most comfortable cabin – if a little low-slung for some. Nor is there a tonne of luggage space here or in the boot. Yet these are most minor quibbles in a machine which offers so much for drivers of all ages.