It won’t come as a huge surprise to some of you that my favourite car of the year is the Mazda MX-5. I’ve already gushed enthusiastically on another blog about it being one of the three cars I’d rank as the best in the world right now.
So, in the name of variety, I got to thinking about what else I could cover under the banner of my favourite car of the year. I considered the all-round astonishing Tesla Model S P85D, the raucously brilliant Mercedes C63 S AMG Coupe, the achingly polished new Porsche 911 or maybe the Honda Civic Type R, which responds to no-holds-barred driving like a dog seeing a tennis ball.
However, I couldn’t make any of them my favourite car of the year. Only the Mazda MX-5 deserves that honour. I find both the 1.5 and the 2.0 equally joyous to drive, but I favour the 2.0 since it’s still low powered enough that you can rinse it out without fear on UK roads, but has a bit more muscle when you want it. The handling is a delight; lively enough to thrill, even on track, but accessible enough not to frighten you even on awkward, unforgiving British back roads. It’s even easy to live with, thanks to the fairly soft suspension (don't bother with the Sport model and its Bilstein dampers) and nicely appointed cabin.
There is only one problem, and that is the driving position. Without the benefit of steering wheel reach-adjustment, and with a fairly pokey cabin, this is not a car for the very long of leg. But hey, I’m of extremely average dimensions and I’ve never been more pleased about that than when slipping into the MX-5. It feels made for me.
In fact, the MX-5 is like somebody took a list of all the things I want in a car, and made it. Small, lightweight, outrageously fun, great to look at, easy to live with, affordable to buy and run… It reads like a fantasy car list, but Mazda has actually done it.
More enthusiasts' cars need to be like this. Of course, I still love every facet of stupidly fast, exotic sports and supercars but the sad fact is that you can’t use their potential on the public road. It’s like turning up to carve the Sunday roast with a Samurai sword.
The MX-5 is where the real heart of the enthusiast scene lies. Most of us can’t buy a Porsche or a Ferrari but the Mazda MX-5 is 90% of the fun for 20% of the cost. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.