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Two rounds ain’t enough

In Photo: Participants were assigned to do two laps around the track each for the manual and automatic variants. The Mazda MX5’s 1.5 SkyActiv engine delivered beyond expectations despite its below 200 hp.

IMAGINE a ride to heaven and back. Well, not exactly the kind of paradise you have in mind, wherein you meet Saint Peter at the gate, along with his cockerel and a whole troop of angels. Rather, think of an experience of indescribable bliss from an impeccably crystal sharp mesh of almost perfect engineering, balance and fine-tuning that only an under-200 hp roadster of such caliber can deliver.

By now, you ought to know what this writer is referring to.

It’s the legendary  Mazda MX-5, which has over 150 awards under its belt and whose fourth-generation edition has just recently been launched.

In fact, during the unveiling at the Green Sun Hotel in Makati City, we remember that Steven Tan, president and CEO of Mazda Philippines, proudly said, “The all-new MX-5 is the epitome of Mazda’s core ethos of providing pure driving pleasure on the road.”

“The amount of design and engineering effort that was put in by Mazda engineers into this latest-generation MX-5 is intended to bring back the first MX-5 to deliver joy in driving,” he added.

Lucky for us, we were able to take this roadster for a spin on the Batangas Racing Circuit the day after the launch. The group first met up at Mazda Pasig on that early Friday morning and then boarded a shuttle for a two-hour trip to the racetrack. Once we arrived, we stumbled onto other fellow media and members of the Miata Club of the Philippines, who were already, obviously, “gung-ho” to get their hands on the MX-5’s wheel. This writer was one of the bevy of eager beavers who numbered over 50.

The organizers grouped us into batches, and we were told that we would only be given two laps each around the track in both the manual and automatic versions, since they needed to squeeze in everyone who wanted to drive.

This scribe was first given a crack at the zeal red mica-colored MX-5 automatic. At the outset, my take on the MX-5 at first glance is that it’s a “chinkier” version of the much more expensive Porsche Boxter. Its hood is now sculpted in a seemingly “devilish” suave and has elegantly crispier lines on its sides compared to its predecessor. The car weighs only 2,309 lbs—231 lbs lighter than its predecessor. Wrapping up its delectable panache are 17-inch alloy wheels.

Once I hopped inside, I could feel the cabin’s roominess. In fact, a colleague who stands about 6’3″ could attest to that fact. Ironically, it seems that its shorter frame has resulted in improvement, space-wise. With the top down, the car seems to hug you comfortably even when the wind brushes your hair. It seems to say to its occupants: “Don’t worry. You’re in safe hands.”

The MX-5 truly seems to be the embodiment of what Kodo (Soul of Motion) is all about. It is smooth and seamless. In short, it’s fun to drive.

Handling-wise, this roadster beats the competition hands down. And it truly lives up to its legendary reputation. It’s light on its feet and agile, just like when one straddles a go-kart, and effortlessly scampers around on the tarmac.

All that feeling almost doubled when I transferred to the manual-transmission variant.

So, where does all the prowess and remarkable performance from this two-seater 155-hp 2.0-liter Skyactiv roadster come from?

This writer learned that the MX-5’s powerplant is actually derived from the base engine of the Mazda 3. Adapting it to the MX-5, however, gave it a more zestful and gutsy personality. A lighter flywheel and tuning gave it improved throttle response, which means the new MX-5 feels a lot like the original 1.6-liter Miata—just a helluva lot faster. At the end of the day, it only took two laps in each variant for this writer to experience 10 years of topnotch engineering. And that really ain’t fair.

But then again, as motoring journalists, we were there to test the cars, not own them.

Unless someone’s willing to lend this scribe P1.68 million to buy the manual variant, or better yet, P1.8 million for the automatic version, then, that would be a different of story.

Image credits: Ronald Rey M. de los Reyes

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