Mazda's MX-5, the world’s most popular roadster has received yet another accolade in the Autocar awards taking the title of ‘Best Handling Car 2003’. The Mazda MX-5 beat the Porsche 911 GT3, BMW Z4, and Noble M12 GTO 3-R, proving the Mazda MX-5's driving dynamics still offer tremendous driving pleasure.
Thirty two of Britain’s best-handling cars were tested at Rockingham Motor Speedway by two F1 drivers, Justin Wilson and Takuma Sato, two BTCC drivers, Phil Bennett and Michael Bentwood, Tiff Needell, Lotus chassis chief Martin Anderson plus the regular Autocar testers. The initial 32 were soon reduced to seven and then a final three.
"The Mazda MX-5 offers as much pleasure as a Porsche 911 GT3 regardless of how fast you drive it," enthused Autocar.
The Mazda MX-5 is available with either 1.6i or 1.8i petrol four cylinder engines. The 1.6-litre engine provides a top output of 110 bhp at 7,000 rpm and maximum torque of 134 Nm at 5,000 rpm. The result is acceleration from 0-62 mph in 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 119 mph, yet it produces a frugal 36.7 mpg on the combined cycle.
The 1.8i engine delivers a top speed of 127 mph and 32.5 mpg on the combined cycle. It provides a top output of 146 bhp at 7,000 rpm and maximum torque of 168 Nm at 5,000 rpm. The result is acceleration from 0-62 mph in just 8.5 seconds. For the more demanding driver, the six-speed 1.8i Sport can reach 129 mph, accelerate to 62 mph in 8.4 seconds, and achieves 31.7 mpg on the combined cycle.
The Mazda MX-5 has sold in excess of 600,000 worldwide in the 13 years since introduction. It was the car that re-ignited interest in the affordable sports car segment, leading to many manufacturers copying the classic design and front engine, rear-wheel drive layout of the Mazda MX-5.
Popular for its looks and driving dynamics the Mazda MX-5 brought fun back into motoring; no longer were motorists enclosed in a ‘tin box’, there was the freedom to throw off the roof and enjoy the sunshine. Suddenly motoring became more than just getting from A to B and owners started driving just for fun, an emotion long forgotten.
Over 55,000 Mazda MX-5s have been sold in the UK since launch, while 2002 was an all-time record year for the Mazda MX-5 in the UK with sales exceeding 7,000. The popular roadster looks set for another record this year with sales to the end of October at 8,577 compared to 6,505 during the same period last year; an increase of 32 per cent.
Mazda MX-5 with improved specification is on sale now priced from £15,000.Published 22 November 2003