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Hard top, hard case. Image by Dave Jenkins.

Hard top, hard case
Small increases in price and weight do little to diminish the appeal of the folding hard top version of the Mazda MX-5.

 



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| A Week at the Wheel | Cambs, England | Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé 2.0i Sport |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

Evolutionary changes have seen the Mazda MX-5 develop into a much more muscular and substantial design. In terms of size and weight the latest model is a much bigger car than the original model - a sign of the times and differing market objectives and requirements. The design integrates the flared arches found on the majority of Mazdas now and the instantly recognisable bonnet sculpting remains. Attaching the solid electric roof has had zero negative effect on the car's profile.

Inside things are very much as they were. Some stowage space is lost to the roof's mechanism, but the boot volume remains intact and the roof does make the car feel more coupe-like. However, it doesn't appear to offer much more insulation against the climate or noise compared to the soft top. The mechanism is impressive and fast acting but could never be as quick or easy as the manual alternative.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

Mazda's 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit is a willing partner, working with the slick shifting 'box to provide plenty of grins; keeping it percolating is a lot of fun, although a sweeter soundtrack would increase this even further. It actually sounds better with the roof down with less intrusion from the somewhat over engineered induction noise being evident.

In terms of performance, 160bhp isn't a big headline figure nowadays, but the MX-5 has never been about outright power and it offers decent warm hatch pace. No doubt the chassis could handle more power, but for the time being this engine remains the most potent available. In fairness, few will feel short changed.

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

The handling of the MX-5 has always been the trump card and remains so in this incarnation. The extra mass of the roof and its high up location don't noticeably detract from handling prowess, nor does it make the car feel any stiffer with the roof in place - both changes are hard to detect by those who are not entirely intimate with the personality of both versions of the car.

It could be argued that tyres of the size fitted on the optional alloys fitted to our test car don't belong on an MX-5, as they give it perhaps too much grip. The simple pleasures of sliding the car around at low speed are denied in all but the tightest corners, and then only under provocation in the dry, although it does break traction more gamely in the wet. Even so, less contact patch may be all the better to enjoy and exploit the chassis's great balance.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Much of the specification and standard equipment remains the same as in other MX-5s, which is no bad thing given the sensible options available. Mazda asks for an additional premium of around £2k for the electric roof, which one can understand when looking at the materials and technologies involved. However, is it really worth £2k more than the ragtop? Relative value is very much a question of personal priorities.

Overall: star star star star star

Mazda's MX-5 package as a whole remains as hard to resist as ever. The fitment of the electric roof should recover sales lost to newer rivals that may offer less driving thrills, such as the 207CC, as well as making the MX-5 experience available to some who've never considered it before. The added weight of the roof is hardly noticeable and the trade off in security will be of the utmost importance to some. For me, the purer soft top option would always be the preference, and not just due to cost, but it's easy to understand why some would opt for the Roadster Coupé option.

Dave Jenkins - 1 May 2008









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2008 Mazda MX-5 specifications: (2.0i Sport)
Price: £21,100 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Top speed: 134mph
Combined economy: 34.5mpg
Emissions: 193g/km
Kerb weight: 1207kg

Full technical specifications

2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.


2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 

2008 Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupé. Image by Dave Jenkins.
 






 

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