Look at the raw performance figures and you’re unlikely to be bowled over with pure excitement. Even though the TF weights a reasonably lithe 1185kg and has 134bhp and 122lb ft to propel it, we are not talking about a car that can accelerate its way into the record books.
Zero to 60mph takes 8.5sec – more than a second slower than we recorded for the lighter 140bhp VVC-engined MGF back in the day – while the 25.5sec 0-100mph time also seems so-so compared with the opposition. Flat out, we managed 124.8mph, nicely in line with the claimed 124mph, but still a little shy of the Mazda MX-5.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that, subjectively, the TF feels an awful lot more lively than its basic numbers would suggest. Throttle response from the 1.8-litre engine is mustard keen without ever feeling neurotic; you can drive the TF smoothly, in other words, without requiring the dexterity of a ballet dancer on the pedals.
The engine also has a hearty appetite for revs and sounds just as happy at 6500rpm as it does at 2000rpm. The difference is that it delivers a lot more sparkle at high revs than it does in the mid-range; thank the high power peak and relative shortage of torque for that.
Accessing the TF’s performance is good fun and easy by-and-large, thanks to a light and pleasingly slick five-speed gearbox and a cluster of pedals that are unusually well weighted. Occasionally the test car wasn’t so keen to select reverse, though – not a good sign considering how young the gearbox was. We’ll give NAC the benefit of the doubt and presume that it isn’t a typical problem.