The Manila Times

The Mazda MX-5 remains one of the last true sports cars


HUMANS are natural-born hoarders. That’s not a bad thing since that’s already built into our survival mechanism. But this instinct has changed the enthusiast’s car of choice. Every car enthusiast wants a two-seat, lightweight sports car at some point in their life, but that would also mean owning something impractical for family or even everyday use. That’s where the sports sedan and hot hatch come in.

For some reason, however, our enthusiast’s car of choice can change once a vehicle that goes against everything that is considered sporty was born — the SUV. We’ve now come to a point when even Ferrari makes an SUV, but amid all of this, there is one sports car that has stayed true to the lightweight sports car recipe — the 2023 Mazda MX-5.

Specifically, what you’re seeing here is the Mazda MX-5 MCP 25th Anniversary Edition. It’s a Philippine-only limited edition model that celebrates the 25th anniversary of Miata Club Philippines. All units come exclusively in Platinum Quartz Metallic with a Navy Blue soft top, which is complemented by Navy Blue accents on the side mirrors and roll hoops. Topping it all off is a set of satin silver 17-inch alloy wheels. Outside the special accouterments of this car, though, what you get is a beautifully simple roadster that has aged quite well. This car first came out in 2015 for the 2016 model year, and even then, the simplicity of its looks has made this roadster beautiful even today.

It’s the same case inside the MX-5. Once again, this special edition model comes with a few special touches to set itself apart from other MX-5s, such as a unique Mazda Connect control knob finished in Sterling Silver as well as a serial number plate also finished in Sterling Silver. Black leather seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a 9-speaker Bose sound system also come as standard, along with a commemorative car cover and the MCP 25th Anniversary Photobook. It’s a simple interior, but because of the MX-5’s compact dimensions, it won’t be a sports car for everyone. For my 5-foot 11-inch height, though, it’s perfectly fine for me.

Practicality obviously won’t be its strong suit. There’s no glove box but there’s a center storage area. Its trunk is tiny as well, though surprisingly more usable than a Toyota GR86 or Subaru BRZ since it isn’t eaten up by the spare tire. Where the MX-5 really shines is in the driving experience.

The 2023 Mazda MX-5, as it stands, comes with a 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 181 hp and 205 Nm of torque that’s sent to the rear wheels via a sixspeed manual or automatic. It would be unsurprising to say that you should absolutely get the manual in the MX-5 since it’s one of the world’s best manual transmissions. As an added bonus, selecting this transmission also gets you a limited-slip differential (LSD) and a strut bar.

Over the years, a lot of our favorite performance cars have evolved to become more refined and more technologically advanced. Basically, a number of sports cars have evolved to be multiple things to multiple people, but Mazda has kept to the lightweight sports car recipe. Weighing at just 1,070 kilograms, the 2.0-liter engine effortlessly pulls this compact roadster. And because it’s so light, the MX-5 feels agile and spritely with an added bonus of fuel economy. How does an easy 13 to 14 kpl sound even if this car is pushed hard?

“Simplify, then add lightness” is what the famous Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus, has said in the past, and you could argue that the MX-5 is a product of the British sports car brand. Its lightness also means you don’t need powerful brakes, but just enough of a size that it also contributes to the car’s light weight. Likewise, there’s no need to add stiff suspension to mitigate body roll, which means for a low-slung sports car with a short wheelbase, the ride is pretty good.

Okay, so with MX-5s, there’s a bit of inherent body roll, but that’s by design and it’s more of a medium of communication of the vehicle to let the driver know what’s happening to the car’s chassis as it goes through corners. The MX-5 ballets through corners with delicacy and balance. And the best part about it is that the MX-5’s personality is approachable. It’s a sports car whose grip limits aren’t immensely high but is also not too low. Thus, the MX-5 lets you explore your limits as a driver and at speeds that aren’t illegal. It’s a car that’s enjoyable on all occasions.

There’s a new Kinetic Posture Control (KPC) feature that’s worth mentioning, and it’s basically an evolution of the brand’s G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC+) torque vectoring. It supposedly adjusts the throttle between the left and right wheels, as well as applies a tiny bit of braking force to the inner rear wheels when cornering. The goal of KPC is to reduce the lifting of the inner rear wheels when cornering, optimizing grip levels and stability. As it stands, though, I’m not sure if I feel any difference from past MX-5s I’ve driven since the car is already inherently good, but if it does improve the handling, then I’m all for it.

The steering is also pretty good, though I find the Toyobaru twins to have a more engaging steering rack due to their weightiness. But the MX-5 is a better sports car when it comes to the visceral engine note. There are sound tubes from the engine that emit noise into the cockpit, which sounds increasingly better as the pace and revs build up. This is unlike the new Toyobaru twins, which have migrated to synthesized engine noise through speakers.

And that’s why I’m impressed with the 2023 Mazda MX-5. Even today, despite the presence of newer, more capable, and more expensive sports cars, the MX-5 has stuck with the lightweight traditional sports car recipe. Mazda could’ve been tempted to add features, increase the size, or add more power to the MX-5, but that is what a sports car traditionally is all about. Isn’t it?

What’s more, at P2.05 million for a base configuration MX-5 Soft Top and P2.28 million for the MCP 25th Anniversary Edition right here (though order books for this model are already closed), it costs roughly the same as high-end variants of the Toyota Fortuner. But then again, the MX-5’s a toy, but the Fortuner’s a vehicle that can do it all — except to be a sports car of course. For those, who have the privilege, though, you’ll be part of an iconic narrative as to why Mazda is still loyal to the traditional lightweight two-seat sports car recipe.





The Manila Times