Toying with an MX-5

red ferrari car parked beside gray concrete wall

 The first car I chose by my own choice was a Smart .   Once I have had the wind in my hair, it became an addiction.  I sold my for a Z4 M, thinking I could get over the desire for an open-top car.  Yet every time I encounter pleasant weather, I bite my nails.  I have been scouting around for a relatively inexpensive roadster.  MX-5 seems to fit the bill.

The car is cheerful to drive.  It feels light and agile. Body roll is minimal. Steering is just right and responsive. The Z4 2.0 steering was a tad too light by comparison, though as responsive.

The Z4 was cheerful too. Moreover, that cheerfulness came bundled with a sense of vanity. After all, it was a BMW. Styling wise, the Z4 is more aggressive and full of character. The MX-5 , on the other hand, is just plain cute. In the Z4, I am cool. In MX-5, I am cute, and maybe, could be, gay.

My main complaint lies with the engine and automatic transmission. It just doesn't deliver enough power. The pickup from standstill was just acceptable. On the straight, I could barely keep up with an Accord even though I am applying full throttle. After about 10 seconds of full throttling, the car was merely doing 160km/h.  With the roof down, 160km/h feels fast enough. What bothers me is the time it takes to get there.

The power band is above 5000rpm. That means I have to work the rev high to get the most out of the engine, which already doesn't have much to give. Unlike the Z4, I could get the max torque around 3500rpm. The exhaust note and engine noise aren't very impressive either. It is not very distinguished. Nothing like the Z4 M or . Even the Z4 2.0 had more character with the right mix of bass and treble.

The automatic transmission is quick enough. It is, of course, not as good as Porsche , which I could hardly distinguish from manual transmission. I could still feel perhaps a half second delay in the gear switching. But I grew accustomed to it easily. The throttle feel was direct enough. Better than the Jaguar XF.

Power and speed are not everything, as I am looking for a fun car which I can use all the time. It's cuteness is non-threatening, much like the Smart Roadster. That can be a plus point because I can bring it to a lot of places without attracting too much attention. The 145mm ground clearance is also more road friendly. But when it comes to cuteness, Mini is even cuter, and it is a continental brand though it loses out in power.

The MX-5 hard top is marvelous. Even the Mini soft top takes 15 seconds to fold. MX-5 only take 10 seconds.  That's Japanese simplicity and efficiency.

The price is RM195,000, with 3 years warranty. It is about right for a Roadster. But is it justifiable for the stuff it offers? And how do I feel about it?  Despite the fact that it is an widely acclaimed car, emotionally it just doesn't click.  I saw one on the road.  It's not the kind of car that draw admiration.  It is nice. But not compelling enough for me to shell out a RM2700 monthly installment. Furthermore, I've had a Z4 before. The MX-5 feels too similar.

The 2008 MX-5 has been sold out.  If the 2010 MX-5 does come, I believe it will be priced around RM220,000, about the same as a Mini.  I'll take a look at the Mini first.

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Chiew Ruoh Peng

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