The five-speed transmission is the sweetest manual gearbox around. Every journey will involve twice the necessary shifts, and in doing so owners will deduce that the motor parps enthusiastically when you match a downchange.
You don’t need the torsional stiffness figures of each car to tell you how much more robust the new MX-5 feels than its predecessor. Predictably, it’s a platform for firmer suspension and at first this is a distinct bonus.
The car rolls less and engenders a feeling of sure-footedness absent in the previous model. But this behaviour is specific to better surfaces, because for all its competence this isn’t a car that ever really flows over a road or picks up the kind of rhythm I’d hoped.
The spring and damper rates feel distinctly continental European. As in very firm, especially under rebound damping: all too often you’re impressed by how supple the car is when it dips into a compression, only to have it jack back up through its suspension travel in one sudden jerk.
I don’t remember ‘charm’ being listed in the damper handbook, but somehow Mazda located and implemented it with the first two generations, and I feel it has been slightly lost in this version.
Continuing the theme, the steering still chatters, but at reduced volume and through a wheel that is curiously large and whose spokes are so thick there isn’t a natural grip point.
The engine itself is fine: smooth, noisy enough when required, mute otherwise. But its power-to-weight ratio of 113bhp per tonne isn’t much, anyone in the market to enjoy the new MX-5 should opt for the stronger 158bhp variant and enjoy the extra 16lb ft of torque.
Should I buy one?
If I sound confused by the new MX-5, it’s because I am. I have never believed in old-is-best philosophies, preferring advanced dynamics and sheer competence over a series of wet-weather moments and a grin on my face.
But the combination of indifferent exterior styling and the car’s inability to work over a road with the Lotus-like agility and deftness that I’d expected were a disappointment.
I’m not for a minute going to conclude that the new MX-5 does anything other than beat its predecessor in all objective areas, because it does just that. But the cost of progress is a slight erosion in that most simple of commodities: appeal.