BRITAIN and sports cars go hand in driving glove, which explains the remarkable success of the Mazda MX-5.
Since its launch in 1989, the agile two-seater has been a remarkable success among UK buyers and the latest fourth generation of the iconic car, which has won numerous awards for styling and engineering, is undoubtedly one of the best.
Mazda has always kept to the original concept of a lightweight and lively convertible, ideal for weekends away or country road commuting, with an increasingly refined chassis beneath.
The newest series is more sharply styled than the previous rounded models but its shorter, lower and wider as well without sacrificing comfort or ability.
There are ten versions in the UK range, based on 131ps 1.5 or 160ps 2.0 four cylinder petrol engines, all with six-speed gearboxes, in five trim levels beginning at £18,500 and rising to £24,295.
The 2.0 SE-L Nav is one of the most popular in the series and brings added refinement if regularly doing longer motorway journeys. That said it also packs a punch for enjoying cross country A or B road trips and its unstressed nature means it is very economical.
The 2.0-litre engine gives excellent getaway performance and with 200Nm underfoot there is good urge through the gears with a flexibility which aids economy as well.
There is little but what is good engine noise, some road noise but really surprisingly little wind or other mechanical noises.
The short-throw and precise six-speed gearbox is a true delight as is the pleasantly progressive clutch, feelsome footbrake and smooth throttle pedal. Stalks and buttons are well placed to work secondary controls and even the roof can be dropped or raised without too much effort by a seated driver or passenger.
The small seats are surprisingly supporting and comfortable with good adjustment unless you are very tall.
Visibility is clear all round, slightly compromised when the canvas roof is raised, but wipers and lights do excellent jobs. I liked the simple clear instruments and the straightforward heating and ventilation system with powered windows as well.
Room is cosy with a 130 litres boot for a weekend holdall or some carrier bags and just a few bins and cubbies in the cabin.
The power from the 2.0-litre engine and the rear wheel drive layout with a comparatively short wheelbase makes for very agile handling with an easy a tendency to hang out its tail oversteering around a tight turn under power. It's all entirely predictable and safe, instantly coming back on line if you lift off mid-corner.
The way the Mazda MX-5 absorbs road shocks and bad surfaces is impressive for a sports car and only the worst came through to jar the occupants.
Body roll is well controlled on corners and you get the impression this is a car which would be very comfortable on a long journey despite its overall size.